A look back at some past experiences and memories, part
July 10, 2014
By Avi Green
We now turn to the next page’s worth of past Mailbag mishmash from
the old Captain Comics site (previous one is here),
otherwise worthless as it was, but useful for pointing out the
hypocrisy and double-standards of a real life J. Jonah Jameson. Our
next examples come from April 6, 2000:
Dear Captain: A minor addition to your answer two
weeks ago regarding the origins of how Dick Grayson took up the
name Nightwing. What you said about the Pre-Crisis origin was
quite correct: Dick took his name from a story Superman told him
about Kandor, where he took the name of a Kryptonian bird.
However, it was not until recently that someone explained
Dick's name change in the post-Crisis DC Universe. The story,
"Taking Wing" by Chuck Dixon, is in Nightwing Secret Files 1.
It explains that in the time after Dick Grayson was shot
and Batman took away his Robin costume, Dick knew he still
wanted to be a crimefighter but was at a loss as to how to do it
as anything but Robin. He turned to the one superhero he knew
and trusted as much as Batman: Superman.
Superman tells Dick of a Kryptonian man whom legend says
was cast out of his family for going against the wishes of the
family. This man then took up the identity of a hero that
defended the oppressed. This legendary hero was known on Krypton
This is, in my opinion, a brilliant retcon. We still have
the connection to Superman and ancient Krypton and the name and
the man it was tied to fits well with the rebellious feelings
Dick held toward his family at the time he became Nightwing.
A different take on the Nightwing story also took place in
Batman and Superman: World's Finest 6, wherein we see Robin
complain to Superman that Batman still treats him like a kid,
despite being in college and leading the Titans. Superman
suggests that Robin take a new costume and name. He says, "You
know, when I learned about my Kryptonian heritage, there were
these two heroes ... "
Thanks for the additional background, [name withheld]!
Alas, this is typical pseudo-wisdom from
the man who still acts like many comics characters are real people,
are solely at fault for anything wrong they do – not the writers who
apply those actions he has problems with – and who also treats them
like dirt in that regard. I sure hope the guy who wrote this letter
understands that today. Next comes a letter all about the needless
attention garnered from the Apollo/Midnighter mishmash in The
Re: Apollo and Midnighter
Wow ... so the mass media finally noticed.
It was only glaringly obvious to anybody who actually read
the comic, right? Then again, I suppose that it took this long
for somebody who doesn't specialize in comics to find time to
read a comic book.
I like one person's spin on the whole matter: To
paraphrase, he said that even if Apollo and Midnighter did
something that was unmistakeably homosexual in nature, there
would be people who would manage to rationalize it away somehow.
"He ... um ... he got bit by a snake!"
I haven't managed to track this story as it crawls its way
through the papers, but I suspect that whoever wrote the
original piece didn't bother interviewing Warren Ellis, and
finding out anything about them.
Warren Ellis's response to being ignored is available online at
Comic Book Resources.
It’s just as well that Ellis was ignored
(much like Mr. Smith’s own columns should be by anyone looking for
real dedicated news on comics), though I’ll have to note that no
matter who wrote the story, it matters little to the contemptuous
mainstream press. No, what matters is the agendas and beliefs being
pushed upon the public. To feature homosexuality in comics is one
thing. Depicting it in a positive light is entirely another.
Dear Cap: I have an ideal for a possible article
which you may want to write. It is about the hidden treasures
that can be found in the back bins of the comic stores and at
flea markets and yard sales. A few weeks ago, I decided to hit
the flea-market circuit and I struck gold. I got a bunch of DC
comics from the '60s. They were a couple of Justice Leagues,
Batman and a Supergirl Annual. Now most of these read like a
trip to the dentist but it was great to have these old books.
The nostalgia lover in me had a field day.
Later on I found a crop of Unknown Soldier books. I was
never a big fan of the Soldier but I decided to grab them (at a
discount price I may add). The books were great. It really
surprised me that the Soldier from the original series was just
as bloodthirsty and cold as the Soldier from the recent Vertigo
miniseries. There was also an issue which showed the Solider
unmasked!! FYI: The Unknown Soldier has a very gruesome
appearance. His face is very skull-like. I could go on about the
other treasures I found such as Batman's first meeting with
Crazy Quilt, a Batman/Ragman teamup, Conan vs. Kull, Belit vs.
Red Sonja, a Secret Wars paperback that only cost me $5, an
early Ghost Rider where Johnny Blaze was in control (not
Zarathos), and much more.
The back bins and flea markets can give readers a chance to
glimpse their favorite heroes in another light. Sometimes these
old issues can give insight to what is happening today. You
should urge your readers to do more treasure hunting.
By the by, I have a question about one of those treasures.
I grabbed an issue of Batman. The cover was a classic Batman and
Robin springing into action. The comics code symbol was seen as
always, the price was seen as always, but something was missing.
The issue number was not presented and the DC bullet logo was
altered. Instead of having "DC" in the bullet, the "Whitman"
logo was there. Did Whitman once own DC? I have collected DC
from the '50s through the present and have never run across the
Whitman logo before. What is the deal?
You'll get no argument from me about back-bin bargains. The older
I get, the more fun Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (and similar
books) seems to me. I think I'm growing nostalgic for a time when
we didn't take our funnybooks so seriously.
I was mesmerized by the original Unknown Soldier strip, which was
Vertigo before Vertigo existed-- completely unlike anything on the
stands at the time. U.S. was NOT a nice guy, which struck me as a
lot more "realistic" than the Sgt. Rock/Sgt. Fury stuff. If you're
interested, Unk began in Star-Spangled War Stories 151, with his
origin first presented in No. 154. The series was renamed Unknown
Soldier officially with issue 205 and ran until issue 268 (1982).
(I was also impressed intellectually with his skull-like
appearance. Having no hair of facial fat made it more believable
that he could disguise himself so convincingly -- unlike, say, Tom
cruise in Mission: Impossible.)
To answer your question, Whitman distributed reprints in
three-packs from various companies for sale in Kmarts and the
like; doubtless you got one of those.
With all the bleak books he’s been
praising lately, to say nothing of an inability to publicly complain
about the disdain DC and Marvel alike have for past history, I
seriously doubt he thinks Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is as fun as it
was back in the day.
Dear Cap: I'm with you on the X-Men's movie outfits.
What would be wrong with using the actual outfits? It seems
Hollyweird can't leave well enough alone when it comes to
super-hero movies. Remember what they did to Batman (nipples!).
I picked up X-Men 100, mainly for the Arthur Adams cover,
but also to see what Claremont has up his sleeve. I'm not too
keen on the Neo. They just seem to be trumped-up copies of your
typical evil mutants. However, I did like the characterization
of Nightcrawler. It just seemed natural for him to be studying
to be a priest, considering his past background. I'll pick up a
few more issues to see where all this is going.
Stone Cold Steve Austin's comic book ... yes, wrestling
fans can read. But only for a few minutes at a time. Any longer
and their heads would explode.
The consensus of opinion seems to be that the Nightcrawler riff in
X-Men 100 was the highlight of the New Direction. The Neo, on the
other hand, were just typical Claremont villains --
interchangeable speech patterns and personalities, as "noble" as
they are naughty and -- naturally -- led by a woman.
If that’s supposed to be a critique, his
acceptance of Identity Crisis scuttles it. As for movie outfits,
it’s worth noting that Joel Schumacher was mostly at fault for that
insulting emphasis. Ick.
Dear Captain: On the debate about costumes in the
X-Men movie, you stated that Batman kept his comic costume in
the 1989 movie and was succesful. First off, the coloring on
that costume was changed to make it all black, a slight
alteration from the comic version. Second, characters such as
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have pretty much always worn
the same costume and are thus instantly identified by their
outfits. Making a movie without using the original costumes for
these characters wouldn't make much sense. The X-Men can get
away with it, though, for a couple of reasons: 1) Every member
has changed costumes numerous times, so it is impossible to say
that they are identifiable in a particular costume. This gives
them more freedom to come up with new costumes for the movie, as
they are changing the outfits in the comics every couple of
years (for some characters anyway). 2) Outside of the comic
community, most people wouldn't be able to identify the X-Men's
costumes anyway. While they have become more mainstream thanks
to their cartoon, they still are nowhere near as recognizable as
Superman or Batman. And on a last note, to all the people who
are saying that the costumes in the books have been changed to
mirror those of the movie, take a closer look. The original
intent was to design costumes that were more in sync with what
characters would be wearing in the movie, but the final designs
look nothing like the movie versions. The new costumes in the
comic actually look more like the old X-Factor uniforms worn by
Beast, Jean and Cyclops.
Actually, the new costumes look a lot better than the old X-Factor
suits, which were pretty hideous. Thanks for the input,
Uh uh, the old X-Factor suits weren’t that
bad. Since this letter was written, things have changed for the Big
Blue Boy Scout, as DC mandated his red tights be changed to blue,
even for the Man of Steel movie.
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<< That's a darn good question, since Crisis on Infinite
Earths, Zero Hour and other retcons have muddied the issue
alarmingly. The Red Bee died in All-Star Squadron 35 and is shown
to still be dead in Starman, so I guess we can be sure he's one.
And, as you pointed out in subsequent e-mails, TNT was shown to
have died in Infinity Inc., so that may be another.>>
And now, the curse of Hypertime: I loved The Red Bee's
appearance in Starman, and clearly, James Robinson stuck with
the All-Star Squadron
chronology. However, over in JLA, as part of World War III,
Plastic Man mentions that he's perfect to battle Queen Bee
because he used to share Prozac with a destitute Red Bee, and
had learned a lot about bees as a result. (I prefer a Hypertime
explanation that removes DC's recent revamp of Plas's origin,
and instead believe that Eel O'Brien has been Plastic Man since
1940. Being plastic just might make him age-proof?) It's still
possible that Morrison considers The Red Bee dead.
Miss America was the foster mother of Fury II; the original
Fury was, yes, her birth mother. How and why, though, never got
explained. I always assumed it would turn out that Iron Munroe
(still alive, at least as of Damage) was the father. The
original Fury, though, may well be dead, as I don't think she
has appeared outside of the pages of All-Star Squadron and Young
Re: Lee/Kirby creations
How about Ghost Rider? He was incredibly hot (if an
incredibly stupid title) for quite a few years.
Also, does Daredevil count as a Lee/Kirby creation? I know
Stan wrote him, but did Jack have anything to do with it? Am I
just splitting hairs?
The reference you made (to JLA 38) does indeed mention "the late
Bee" -- so Morrison joins Robinson in considering the Red Bee
extinct. But to muddy the waters on Plas, there is no time peg
mentioned in Eel's anecdote -- he merely refers to "the lean
years," and since we don't have a coherent timeline for Plastic
Man, it could have been 10 years ago or in World War II or anytime
in between. Heck, who's to say Eel O'Brien didn't hang with the
Bee before becoming Plastic Man? Anyway, like you, I prefer to
believe that Plas has been around since his 1941 debut in
Quality's Police Comics No. 1.
Another writer put his two cents in on when and where Fury I
appeared last week. Still, it doesn't clear things up much. Fury
was created to take Wonder Woman's place in wartime JSA
adventures, once Wonder Woman was erased by Crisis. But now
Hippolyta has been established as having been Wonder Woman in
World War II (does that make Diana "Wonder Woman II" now?), so
there's no reason for Fury I to have existed at all -- except as
Fury II's mother. Hopefully, future issues of JSA will clear this
And yeah, I think we can include Daredevil (and Spider-Man) as
being "from the Lee/Kirby era," even if they weren't specifically
Lee/Kirby creations. At least for the purposes of this discussion.
After all, Lee wrote 'em both, and Kirby was Marvel's uncredited
art director (he created Spider-Man's costume, although he didn't
draw the book), so let's not split those hairs.
And Ghost Rider's a good call -- a couple of others suggested him
-- but like Nova, Moon Knight, Cloak & Dagger, Luke Cage,
Punisher and Venom, he doesn't currently have an ongoing book.
Isn't that something? Only the X-books and the Lee/Kirby stuff
have remained popular through thick and thin.
I think I already addressed the Fury
issue. Did they clear it up? Oh, did they ever, by kicking
her to the curb, and Hector along with her, in 2005.
Based on some recent
discoveries, I’m skeptical Robinson had any real respect for
Roy Thomas’s gems from the 80s, and Robinson's crass attitude since
only enforces my modern belief something is terribly wrong with his
way of thinking.
Dear Cap: I am writing to again thank you for a very
interesting site. I do not visit it very much as I really do not
read or buy comics anymore -- just Sailor Moon, but that is a
special case. There are just too many titles for me to grab JUST
ONE and follow it along.
At any rate, keep up the good work in presenting the
history of a specialized collectible.
Thanks for the props, [name withheld]. Anything you can think of
you'd like to see that isn't being done elsewhere?
Right-wing opinions, perhaps? But alas, he
never offered anything convincing then, and I can’t he’s doing so
now. I will say that on the current site he’s running, he has a
contributor who’s ostensibly conservative, but since the man I speak
of embraced Identity Crisis and its rendition of Dr. Light as a sex
offender, I can’t believe he’s a real conservative, so much as I can
believe he’s a pervert. No joke.
Dear Cap: Thanks for the recommendations ... I wrote
a really long response to this but what it basically came down
to was that Marvel doesn't make what I'm interested in:
1) Non-superhero material (historical-oriented material,
2) Formats beyond the 32-page monthly pamphlet (the bulk
of their work, including the titles you recommended, is still in
this format). I find this format to be not substantial enough,
and worth neither my money nor, especially, my time. I like TPBs
and collections of comics in books -- I've never bought an issue
of JLA but I have all of the TPBs! In the past I've enjoyed the
more substantial formats and wider range of subject matter of
Japanese manga and the Italian Bonelli books, and the books I
enjoyed when I was younger were all bigger page counts -- 80 and
100-Page Giants, "Giant-Size" Annuals, 100-page digests. I'd
like to see a real "comics magazine," the format of Newsweek or
Sports Illustrated -- down to the ad count and ad content! More
than just Mad or Heavy Metal -- it could even have superhero
material in it too!)
3) Work by combined writer-artists (I've grown to enjoy
more work by people like Bryan Talbot, Frank Miller, Paul
Chadwick, Frank Cho, Moebius, Eisner, Matt Wagner, Paul Grist
and Brian-Michael Bendis, and have never really gone for books
for their writers, other than Alan Moore, who ends up working
with good artists anyway.)
I really grew up favoring DC comics, so much of Marvel has
never interested me anyway. I do find work from other
publishers, and between getting higher ticket items and titles I
actualy do like, I'm probably spending more than I ever have in
my life on comics.
(Believe it or not, what I wrote originally is MUCH longer
Oh, I believe it! Thanks for the comments, [name withheld]!
Have you tried Ring of the Nibelungen and Age of Bronze? I presume
you're picking up the Concrete and Sin City collections. Astro
City collections are all in print too.
Unfortunately, the 32-page pamphlet is a format we're presently
stuck with. That may change in the future, though -- DC's been
keeping a lot of TPBs and such in print, and doing boffo business
(enough to substantially ace out Marvel and Image as the No. 1
dollar-getter). And Marvel's Monsters are a step in the right
direction. I've said this before, but what I'd like to see is
Marvel fold one weaker seller into one big seller, toss in a
reprint and sell the package for $3.50. It would cut the line in
half, you'd get a nice, thick package for your money and newsstand
and bookstore distributors would have enough of a profit margin to
consider carrying comics. Whatcha think?
Ugh, to think he’d recommend something
based on Richard Wagner’s abomination of an opera song! I hate to
admit it, but that’s a black spot on an otherwise fine career by Gil
Kane as an artist, and Roy Thomas also made a mistake to embrace
those monstrosities at the theater in New York City back in the day.
I hope they changed their minds in later years as it became more
common knowledge to anyone outside the music medium.
The 32-page pamphlets are something we’re still stuck with 14 years
after this was posted, and he’s made no attempt to suggest companies
go full-fledged paperback, as I’d think it best to do.
Dear Cap: DC seems to have abandoned the (Janos)
Prohaska identity (for Blackhawk). The last appearance of
Blackhawk (in the JLA Silver Age flashback) showed him as the
original Blackhawk. We'll have a better idea of who DC thinks
Blackhawk is when he appears in the new Silver Age limited
series in May.
But to tell the truth, even if DC does reincarnate the
Prohaska version of Blackhawk, I won't put any credence in it.
They are the same folks who killed Superman and turned the Green
Lantern into a raving maniac. They are almost as bad as Marvel
in taking their best characters and changing them into something
awful (who needed Spider-Man to be a clone for the last 20
years). I prefer to think that the Chaykin continuity took place
in an alternate universe. The real Blackhawks are the ones I
If you accept the Chaykin continuity, then Olaf is a Dane.
Chaykin did a good job of rationalizing the national origins of
the Blackhawks. It's a shame he didn't understand who the
characters really were or why the team worked. He trashed the
concept of the team in favor of his own idea of a character. He
wasn't really writing Blackhawk, he was writing some other
character closely related to all his other characters. It is
amazing to me how he can trash a character. He did the same to
his own creation, Ironwolf.
I hope a LOT of post-Crisis continuity will be unsnarled by "The
The nice thing about comics is we can pull out our old ones, and
they are just as valid as anything currently being published. In
my more nostalgic moments, I re-read old JLA/JSA crossovers and
pretend that Earth-2 is still around.
As we've discussed on my site before, Chaykin only has one
character: An idealized version of himself. He turned Blackhawk
into a clone of Reuben Flagg, Scorpion, Vector Pope (Pulp
A lot of post-Crisis continuity, both good
and bad, was trashed after New 52, and the Blackhawks fared no
better. And based on Mr. Smith’s silence, I’d say the real
Blackhawks are not the ones he cares about.
Dear Cap: Recently on the DC Message Boards, I became
involved in a discussion involving "rip-offs" between Marvel and
DC where we looked at all of the DC and Marvel characters that
are similar. Someone mentioned that Luthor (especially when he
was heavier) and the Kingpin looked alike. Suddenly I was
struck, like a lightning bolt from the wizard Shazam (didn't get
any powers though), by a thought that the similarities between
Luthor (at least the current version) and Kingpin (the way
Miller wrote him in Daredevil) go deeper than a physical
resemblence. After some more thought, I came to a conclusion
that the present Luthor is simply the Kingpin on a grander,
Although my knowledge of pre-reboot Luthor isn't great, I
am under the impression that he was a mad scientist/criminal
genius type. Everyone knew he was evil and a criminal. Superman
would stop Luthor's plan and Luthor would either escape or would
Then with the reboot, Luthor became a very successful
businessman. If I remember right, he didn't come from a wealthy
background, but used his intelligence and strong-arm tactics to
gain power and control in Metropolis and over many of its
citizens, including politicians, etc. As someone else said on
the DC boards, he had a veneer of respectibility but is willing
to operate illegally to get what he wants. Superman is
constantly trying to counter Luthor's illegal acts. However, the
way Luthor runs his businesses (both legal and illegal) make it
hard (if not impossible) for Superman to link Luthor to such
actions. Superman often show ups outside Luthor's high-rise
office and vows he will someday stop him, etc. Basically
Superman and Luthor are involved in this "cold war," neither
openly attacking the other but involved in battles nonetheless
as Superman takes on Luthor's minions, etc.
I think that this sounds a lot like the Kingpin and his
relationship with Daredevil, especially as portrayed by Frank
Miller. Sure, the Kingpin isn't the scientific genius that
Luthor is, but he is certainly intelligent and ruthless. Until
recently, he appeared to much of New York as a respectable
businessman, while all the while he was the head of the criminal
organization in New York. He had judges, politicians and even
army generals in his pocket. Until not too long ago, Daredevil
was unable to connect Fisk to any of these criminal endeavors
and if there was a problem, Fisk used his connections and
lawyers to get out of them. And one of the most common scenes
used was that of Daredevil confronting Fisk in his high-rise
office vowing to take him down, etc. Daredevil and Fisk were
certainly involved in a "cold war."
Obviously there are differences between Luthor and
Kingpin, but these merely show that Luthor is on a larger scale
than Kingpin. As said above, Luthor is a scientific genius.
There is no way Fisk would be consulted or would have an idea in
the Final Night situation that occurred several years ago.
Luthor, however, did have ideas. Futher, Luthor is portrayed as
having larger ambitions and more control outside his home city
than the Kingpin has.
However, Luthor has to be on a larger scale or stage than
the Kingpin. Luthor's nemesis, Superman, certainly operates on a
larger scale or stage than the Kingpin's nemesis, Daredevil,
does. Luthor has to be a challenge to Superman and therefore he
needs to larger or more dangerous than the Kingpin. Hence, the
greater intellect, ambition, etc.
(Of course, there is one other difference between the two.
When Kingpin was given Daredevil's secret identity, he tested
the name to see if it was true and then used it to his
advantage. When Luthor was given Superman's secret identity, he
immediately dismissed the idea without attempting to see whether
or not it was true. Hmmm, maybe Kingpin is smarter (or at least
less arrogant) than Luthor is.)
So what do you think? I am not arguing that Luthor was
better as a mad-scientist type (I think this version of Luthor
is fantastic and maybe the best thing about the reboot) or that
he is necessarily a rip-off of the Kingpin. Maybe all I am
arguing is that the Kingpin-Daredevil dynamic is similar to the
Luthor-Superman dynamic. I just wanted your knowledgeable
I think the comparison's completely valid; the history of the
characters is wildly different, but after multiple retcons and
such they've pretty much ended up in the same place. I won't jump
to the conclusion that the new Luthor was copied from Kingpin,
though -- it makes good story sense for a superhero to face a foe
he can't just punch out, and I'm surprised there aren't more
characters like Luthor and Kingpin bedeviling our heroes. Of
course, that may be explained by noting that guys in business
suits and Machiavellian machinations aren't terribly visual, and
American comics ARE very visually oriented.
Other astounding comic-book similarities: Marvel's X-Men (a group
of outsiders led by a man in a wheelchair) and DC's Doom Patrol (a
group of outsiders led by a man in a wheelchair) appeared within
months of each other in 1963. And Marvel's Man-Thing (a man-like
swamp monster) and DC's Swamp Thing (a man-like swamp monster)
appeared within months of each other in 1972. All parties involved
swear it was just coincidence.
I’d like to think it were just coincidence
Mr. Smith is such an awful journalist, but I’ve got a feeling it
Dear Cap: From Science Fiction Weekly
(http://www.scifi.com/sfw/), News of the Week, March 28:
<<James (Starman) Robinson ... said he will adapt
Alan Moore's comic series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,
a Victorian-era superhero story, the site reported. League
producer Don Murphy told the Web site that Robinson was "almost
What do you think? It'll probably be out on video before
we see the next issue! I'll put up with a lot for Alan Moore,
but this is getting REALLY bad.
The League delay has gotten ridiculous, particularly since Moore
& Co. have yet to offer the slightest shred of an explanation.
Still, I never count my movies until they're hatched. (Columbia
has just canceled their Dr. Strange and Daredevil projects, for
example, after more than a year of tantalizing press releases and
announcements of progress.)
So Robinson was the scripter for LOEG at
least a decade ago? At this point I’d rather not see it based on his
involvement, but after the movie failed to make much impression –
especially on Moore, who disassociated himself from the project – I
guess it doesn’t make much difference.
Outside of Punisher and Venom, no new Marvel
characters of note since the Lee/Kirby period. I'm not up on DC
comics but is it not the same situation with them? I read
everyone talking about Superman, Batman, Legion, JLA, Wonder
Woman. Maybe these characters were not all created by the same
two people but, well, what was your point? If you wanted to
point out what great talents Lee and Kirby were, then OK. I
don't think that is the point you were making. Or maybe there
are a bunch of DC characters that are big sellers now that were
not part of their Silver-Age titles. If that's the case, let me
know. Otherwise, I'd say it's a safe observation to say that
both of the Big Two are the Big Two because of a solid stable of
characters that they established when they started out.
I could note that Hitman, Hellblazer, Preacher, Transmetropolitan
and Sandman (not to mention the whole WildStorm line) have all
been successes for DC, none of which have a noticeable connection
to the Silver Age. But why quibble? You've got a very good point,
[withheld]. I think the original intent of the questioner was to
note that Lee & Kirby's creative explosion in the '60s is
STILL astonishingly important to Marvel's current (semi-) success,
which I think we can all agree on.
Uh uh, it’s not important to Quesada,
Alonso, Buckley, or even Brevoort. No, what’s important to them is
money at all costs, even if it means valuing the speculator market
over the dedicated readers.
Dear Cap: I would pick Storm of the X-Men to run for
Hmmm. She's the daughter of an American father and an African
mother, born in Africa. Would she qualify as a native-born
If one or both parents have citizenship,
then yes, she would. As for Mr. Smith, I’d choose him to run for
janitor at the train station and clean out all the toilets!
1) I know you think I'm a little weird for liking this
feature so much (as opposed to how normal you think I am for
loving both The Red Tornado I AND The Mod Squad to death), but I
regret missing two weeks of your New Comics and Comments page.
Any way I could access them somewhere, or can you e-mail me
copies? Sorry to be a pain, but I do like a lot of your
comments. Keep trashing Marvel.
2) Everyone's all up in arms because you called the
upcoming X-Men movie costumes "Matrix-like." No, they are not
exactly like the duds in that movie, but it's easy to see what
you meant: They're black, they're leatherish, and they're sleek.
Not identical to the Matrix costumes, but it's not that offbase
for you to call them "Matrix-like."
And when you refer to the costumes not being Spandex, I
took that to just mean "patterned after the Spandex costumes in
the comics." Like the non-Spandex "lead costume" in the
Batflicks. Jeesh, everyone is taking you so point-by-point
3) You say that capturing the characters' comic-book
spirit is the point of making the picture. Well, for you maybe,
and for me (if I was even going to see the movie, but, sorry,
except for the Joe Kubert Clause, I do not give my money to
Marvel, just as I don't give it to Kevin Smith), but certainly
not for the studio. The only reason any Hollywood movie is made
is in order to (hopefully) make money. And, as it's been pointed
out, I agree that the X-Men have less of a chance of reaching a
general audience in their individual, colorful costumes.
4) But if I were making the movie and had power over it,
of course I'd give them their real costumes. I'd want to see
them, too!!! Screw the box office, I'd make the movie I'd want
to. But, then, if it was my film, the whole dang deal would be
very different. The team would be made up of the "classic" New
X-Men, from the early Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days: Professor X,
Cyclops, Phoenix, Banshee, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine and
Nightcrawler. And they'd be wearing those costumes: Logan's
yellow and blue, Storm's original get-up ... Plus, Edward Norton
would be Scott, Julianne Moore would be Jean, Angela Bassett
would be Ororo, the fellow who played Caliban in Prospero's
Books would be Nightcrawler (obviously I would not be dealing
with the teen X-Men), and I'd have to spend some time figuring
out the rest ...
5) I always liked Quicksilver, myself -- because he was
obnoxious. I liked him as a character but not as a person, if
you see what I mean. If I were a superhero, I wouldn't want to
actually work with this obnoxious person, but as a reader I
enjoy seeing a superhero actually be a rat and shake things up
by being one. I like the old, green-and-white costume, though.
6) You talk about gals digging Nightwing. Well, judging
from my experience on the DC Message Boards, that certainly
seems to be the case. But you should see how the guys are taking
to Mr. Grayson!!! There are so many guy posters on those boards
that are absolutely ga-ga over Dick! Me ... er, being one of
them. We've got one fella who's particularly sassy and naughty
about it; it's great fun. Other heroes have big followings among
both genders as well -- Tempest, Arsenal, the young Green Arrow,
others, but Nightwing seems to lead the pack -- and I can see
why! But that ponytail? Uh, no way, Jose, man. Ugh. I'm glad it
got cut off!
7) Speaking of hot guy superheroes, I like you got my
panties in a bunch over the reports of DC "finally taking the
plunge" and having queer guy superheroes this month in The
Authority's Apollo and The Midnighter. What got me about it was
that it was clearly another case of a "reporter" writing about
something without knowing anything about it. And I HATE that.
"Reporters" who won't even do some research. And it's so typical
of mainstream media's "reporting" of comics-related stories. The
main article that seemed to get everyone on the boards I'm on
all worked up was written by someone who didn't know that Apollo
and Midnighter were already out or that DC already had queer
superheroes and supporting characters -- how long have Maggie
Sawyer, Hero from Superboy and the Ravers, Pied Piper, Mikaal in
Starman, etc., been around?
8) And people are buying this "reporting." We even had one
yahoo on the DC boards a while back who said that despite how
long and illustrious and good and honored DC's tradition was
(like she was talking about freakin' Mother Theresa or
something), "now" that DC had decided to publish queer
superheroes, she had to boycott the company. Jeez.
9) And, of course, Northstar over at Marvel. We queers
have been in superhero comics for a while now, even donning
capes and tights upon occasion.
But I would like to point out that the latest issue of The
Authority is breaking new ground in a neat way. To the best of
my knowledge, it marks the first time two superguys have every
kissed on-panel in a mainstream book. Which is very nice to see
(although I haven't picked up my copy yet!) Over at Vertigo a
while ago, The Enigma kissed a layman, but here we have two
superguys locking lips, as any consenting, adult superfolk
should be able to do on-panel, I say. And, really, although a
cut above most of the Spandex titles, and pushing the envelope
more than most (in many ways), The Authority IS a mainstream
book in many ways. It's not DCU, but it is a superhero book
published by DC -- just a different, special and excellent one!
1) Heh! I'll keep trashing them as long as they continue to
deserve it! Unfortunately, I don't keep archives of the "New
Comics Comments." You're the only correspondent who's requested
it, so it doesn't seem worth the effort/space. I don't even have
copies myself -- I just write over last week's when I update it.
2) Bless you, bless you, bless you, [withheld]! One of the trying
aspects of being a columnist is incessant nit-picking by a small,
smartass minority. I actually had one writer rag on me for several
paragraphs because I used "often" instead of "usually" in one
sentence of a 20-column-inch opinion piece. (He whipped out
Webster's definitions and such to show me how "stupid" I had
been.) Don't get me wrong -- the vast majority of correspondents
are thoughtful, erudite and on-topic. But there are times when I
want to jump through the screen and throttle people who seem to be
deliberately misrepresenting or misunderstanding what I've said --
or worse, twisting what I've said around to where it appears I've
I've "taken" a contrary position to an argument they've got
prepared. I resist the urge to respond in kind, but sometimes it's
hard. Ah, well. You take the bad with the good. Thanks for the
3) It seemed to me when I wrote the X-Men costume column that
Bryan Singer was taking an awful chance on alienating his core
audience, the hard-core comic-book fan. I understand that he's
shooting for a huge, non-comics-reading audience, but if he
alienates that core constituency, he's going to get terrible
word-of-mouth and the movie will tank. I may have been wrong about
that, as most of my mail seems to be taking a "so what?" attitude.
Still, as author Harris Lentz said last week, it seems odd to make
a movie about a property while discarding one of the elements that
make it so popular.
4) I think for virtually every reader, the "real" X-Men are
whoever was on the team when they first started reading X-Men (or
first got excited about X-Men). For me that's the original five,
or the lineup from the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days. (Even Kitty
Pryde still seems like a "new" member to me!)
5) Me too. I understand the reasoning behind the current suit --
he looks more airy and mercury-like in motion, and adds chromal
variety in group shots. But post-disco, I can't think of too many
people who'd choose to dress entirely in pastel blue. Especially
the fiery Pietro, who'd probably opt for darker, redder colors
like ... oh, I dunno, like his DAD! Anyway, I agree with you that
Quicksilver's obnoxious behavior makes him a terrific character to
add to a team for the friction it would produce. However, as I
said about the demise of his eponymous title in "Canceled Comics
Cavalcade," he makes a great second banana (played against
authority figures) but a lousy lead character, as he's so
6) You know, your Nightwing comments bring up something that's
been troubling me. I wrote: "If you're a guy, show Nightwing to
your girlfriend." That's a quick and easy thing for me to write --
I'm heterosexual, most of my friends are heterosexual and I write
for and in a society that considers heterosexuality "normal." But
as my homosexual readers occasionally point out to me, that phrase
automatically disenfranchises GAY men. But if I write "If you're a
straight guy ... " it seems stilted and raises more issues than a
throwaway remark deserves. As a gay man, are you annoyed when I
turn a phrase like that? Or do you just read the intent, give me
the benefit of the doubt, and move on?
7) Quite a while. I can't think of an openly "out" comics
characters before Northstar (circa 1992), but there's been a
boatload since. As to ignorant reporters, I'm in the biz, and I'll
note for the record that it's asking a lot of a $25,000-a-year kid
to cover a zoning board meeting in the morning, interview a
nuclear scientist at noon and write a fluff piece on comics in the
afternoon -- and be an expert on ALL of those topics. Try to
imagine how many different topics a general-assignment reporter
covers in a given week, ALL of them on deadline and due 10 minutes
ago. Having said that, though, I'll gladly go on record as saying
that comics coverage by the mainstream media goes beyond shameful.
It took me five years to teach the copydesk (where headlines for
stories such as mine are written) that using "Pow! Zap! Boom!" in
a headline was A) not clever and B) not germaine (since it refers
to a TV show), but also C) A 30-YEAR-OLD CLICHE.
8) Well, that should certainly show them. Why, the very nerve of
those comic-book people. Think of the children! (Tearing hair,
rending clothing, gnashing teeth.)
9) Hmm. It MAY be the first time two superguys have kissed. Mikaal
and his boyfriend have been shown liplocked (and in bed), but one
of 'em is -- to use your phrase -- a layman. Is this really the
1] His comments on the week’s output were
worthless except for anyone who wanted to study how some reporters
can do their darndest to imitate J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow,
so why bother to ask him for archives? He's never kept panning
Marvel at the times they deserve it either.
2] Some correspondents, as I’ve noted before, have more intelligence
than he can ever be expected to have. Simultaneously, I’m realist
enough to know even right-wing correspondents can have truly awful
ideas for how to manage comics.
3] I seem to remember MAD magazine’s parody featuring Magnet-Man
telling the readers “you might wonder how this movie trivialized the
Holocaust!” Anyone who ponders that surprisingly spot-on note might
be alienated already. The iffy costume choices are the least of the
movie’s problems then.
4] I don’t think Mr. Smith really cares about any of the X-members.
More to the point, I don’t think he cares about finding good writers
who can make the most weakly written more palatable.
5] There he goes again with his failure to voice disappointment
where it’s due, at the feet of the writers who brought Pietro to
that point in the first place.
6] Just why must he be so concerned about “cultural sensitivity” to
practitioners of homosexuality? I’m not surprised there were gay
fans of Nightwing, but still, it’s very creepy when you think about
7] Funny how he laments untalented reporters yet fails to recognize
his own faults in this regard. He once called the world of comics
“conservative” when it’s anything but that. And if he gushes over
misogynist trash like Identity Crisis, then he should look at
himself in a mirror before saying the mainstream goes beyond
shameful. Why, look how he ignores the very embarrassingly
heavy-handed “outing” of Northstar in Alpha Flight back in 1992, as
penned by none other than Scott Lobdell, one of the worst writers on
the X-Men two decades ago! If he can’t note how bad that was, nor
how the Boston Globe’s own coverage was gushy and favoratist all for
the sake of it, then like he says, mainstream coverage is simply
8] I sure hope the correspondent’s come to terms with Mr. Smith’s
“reporting” since. The nerve of a man who promotes miniseries like
Identity Crisis and simultaneously ignores other such atrocities,
and even speaks with a forked tongue about sexism rampant in the
medium. Think of the children please! (Him tear clothes and gnash
teeth? Yeah, I’ll bet.)
9] Who cares? What I want to know is if any criticism of
homosexuality is allowed in mainstream comic featuring it. Come to
think of it, is criticism of socialism and marxism allowed anymore
in comics? Better still, is criticism of Islam’s
hostilities to gays and lesbians allowed in mainstream comics?
There’s something to ponder!
Dear Cap: On your site:
<<On the other hand, I'm one of the only people who
doesn't like any of the four Batman movies released in recent
years. I don't like the costuming, the characterization, the
look of the city and vehicle -- nothing.>>
Actually, though the Batman films never got around to any
characterization, Sam Hamm in his original screenplay did. The
book Batmania II (edited by James Van Hise -- worth a look if
you can get it out of the library) notes that the original
screenplay brought out many interesting character moments, but
that Hamm quit during a writers' strike, and was not allowed to
participate on the project even after the strike was over.
The screenplay was then somewhat hastily rewritten by
Warren Scaaren and some others. This is why the finished film
has certain glaring plot problems. It was not Hamm's idea to
have The Joker turn out to be the murderer of the Waynes (a
change which oddly mirrored Oliver Stone's idea of having Thulsa
Doom kill Conan's parents in the 1982 Conan movie), and so that
is why the final confrontation in the finished film has The
Joker seem to know that he killed Batman's parents without ever
having learned Batman's true identity!
For another example of a glaring plot hole in the finished
film, in one scene in the final film, The Joker confronts Vicki
Vale at her apartment, and then leaves - even though he had just
spent the last night trying to kidnap her!
However, in Hamm's original screenplay, this scene would
actually have continued with Wayne disguising himself by wearing
a stocking as a mask, stealing a horse from a mounted policeman
-- a scene which James Cameron stole for True Lies, though we
have no idea how he managed to read Hamm's screenplay -- and
then eventually this would have led up to a modified origin of
There were various other interesting bits (The Joker's
venom was actually a nerve toxin that had been developed for the
CIA, for example), and, more importantly, more scenes that lent
themselves to characterization. The Vicki Vale scenes would have
been key parts of the film for that reason. (In one scene, a bit
of dialogue occurs where Vicki tells Wayne that he cannot save
every man from crime. Wayne's response is "What if I could save
a handful? What if I could save one?")
But as noted, Hamm's screenplay was tinkered with by other
hands. Hamm was asked back for Batman Returns, but was replaced
by Wesley Strick. (That last guy also wrote the 1997 film
version of The Saint -- and still has a job!) Nothing
need be said about later entries in the series.
I read that the Bats-on-horseback scene was dropped because it
took place in daylight, and Tim Burton argued that Batman would
NEVER appear when the sun was up. I think it's a good point, but
they should have offered some explanation for why The Joker would
show up, "kill" Bruce Wayne, and then leave without molesting
Vicki Vale in any way.
Well at least we get some insight here on
how the 1st major Batmovie came to be. But if Mr. Smith began his
career in 1989, would he have said the movie was limp, or, would
he have gone the “diplomatic” route and said something within
the range of positive? Based on his MO, I’m inclined to assume he’d
do the latter.
Thanks for the Bat-background, [withheld]! And, here you
<<The site you cite is an extremely detailed comparison of
Superman with the life of Jesus, apparently by some sort of
Other Jesus references in comics:
Peter David, a Jew, onced noted that his revised origin of
Aquaman brought comparisons with the Christian belief in the
Incarnation that he, as a Jew, had not anticipated. The idea of
an Atlantean queen being impregnated by the spirit of an
Atlantean sorcerer seemed to close to the idea of a virgin being
impregnated by Gabriel fror some (interview in Wizard 24).
Let us not forget Rick Veitch's attempt to get one of DC's
mystical characters, the Swamp Thing, to meet Jesus in a
time-travel story. (The Golden Gladiator and The Demon would
have guest appeared.) Ironically, a few years earlier, the
Phantom Stranger met (and beat with a whip) Jesus just before
the crucifixion in Secret Origins 10, and a few years later,
Valiant Comics would reveal that their Eternal Warrior character
had been at the crucifixion!
Jesus has also appeared in various adaptions of the Bible,
Nelson/Marvel's Life of Christ miniseries in the early 1990s,
implied in the first run of Ghost Rider, Spectre 0, Haunted
Thrills 14 (it's strictly implied, but a bearded man appears to
save people from demons; he notes, "You must not give up hope,
any of you! I am -- er -- familiar with these things and know
how to handle them!") and The Big Book of Martyrs. Of course,
nothing need be said about Garth Ennis's ouevre, from his run on
Hellblazer to Preacher, which should upset people more than
Aquaman and the Swamp Thing combined.
DC's objection to the Swamp Thing story seemed arbitrary to me at
the time because, like you, I could come up with dozens of Jesus
appearances in comics off the top of my head. No wonder Rick
Veitch is still furious.
Mr. Smith’s embrace of Identity Crisis
seems arbitrary to me from 2004 till now, because I’ve long figured
he’s a double-talker and besides, it wasn’t the first time a rape
appeared in a DC comic. The earliest I know of was in The
Question #5, where an office drone took advantage of a
co-worker who was staying in the building they worked at in Hub
City, because she was afraid to go home with a crime wave turning up
at the time. After he backed off, she let him know how disgusted she
was, while he pleaded poor-little-me defenses. He finally recognized
that he’d done terrible wrong to her, and climbed onto the roof,
where he committed suicide. How come that’s overlooked by anyone who
thinks the DCU literally needs a rape story at all costs?
Regarding the Prez book having been revealed as a
hallucination in a Vertigo book ... I don't know anything about
that book, but I do know that a whole story in Vertigo's The
Sandman was devoted to Prez.
The story was part of the "Worlds' End" arc. In one
section of it, the main male character (his name escapes me)
talks to a follower of Prez while in a tavern between worlds.
The Follower tells him an updated tale of Prez, who became
president during the 1970s on an alternate Earth. After death,
he was granted a sort of immortality by Dream of the Endless, so
that he could travel realities and fix all the Americas that
didn't have a Prez Richards to fix their problems ...
Of course this may well have been a drug-induced
hallucination when it was written, but with Hypertime it is
possible that Prez is wandering around out there somewhere and
someday he'll make it to the regular DCU.
I remember that Sandman story too, but the one I'm thinking about
was a three- or four-parter that detailed a drug-addled slacker
named Prez Rickard and two companions road-tripping across America
in search of Prez's father. In the course of the story he has a
bad trip and hallucinates many of the events of the 1973 Prez
series. I seem to remember it as a miniseries, but it may have
taken place within another Vertigo book -- Sandman, The Dreaming
or Shade, perhaps. Anybody else remember?
No, but I do remember how misleading Mr.
Smith could be, and didn’t have the courage to acknowledge how a lot
of the political opinions seen in mainstream comics are left-wing.
As for the Sandman, I honestly have come to wonder if it’s a tad
overrated, though not nearly as much as James Robinson’s Starman.
Dear Cap: Sorry for the rather surly e-mail. Well,
the point (actually opinion) that I was trying to make was that
I don't think the absence of new (and still-published) titles is
an indicator of "the sorry state" of Marvel. What's sorry about
them is the poor job they are doing with their original core
titles. And, I really was interested in whether the same could
be said about DC, as far as new (and still-published) titles.
Thanks for your responding to my e-mail. I really look
forward to your site every week.
Marvel does seem to have a rather tarnished image these days, and
it comes from making publishing and editorial decisions the fans
find unpopular. The publishing problems stem from the company
being micromanaged by its creditors -- bankers and beancounters
who watch every penny and axe titles who look like they're just
thinking of not making a profit. The unpopular editorial decisions
-- Spider-clone, "Heroes Reborn," firing Mark Waid and Peter David
-- well, I find them inexplicable, too!
Interesting question about DC. Anybody else have an opinion?
Coming right up: I think they too have a
rather tarnished image today, thanks in no small part to their
willingness to go right along with Identity Crisis and force many of
the ideas seen there down the throats of the audience. And they had
their own share of controversies in terms of dismissals, like Chuck
Dixon and Dwayne McDuffie getting fired by Dan DiDio. Why, if Marvel
was micromanaged, then so too was DC. Not that you could expect them
to admit it, nor could Mr. Smith be expected to admit the same about
his own writing.
Even though he's a major, MAJOR character, I still
have to dump on his costume. The hero I'm talking about is
Superman. I mean, really. First off, there's the stupid trunks
which speak for themselves. They're goofy and superfluous.
Second, from what we've learned about super-costumes and modern
forensic science, you don't want to get your fingerprints on the
villain's costume, or something that you've handled at the crime
scene, so you wear gloves. Superman doesn't have gloves; does he
not have fingerprints since he's Kryptonian, or does he control
the muscles in his hands to nix the prints? It's never been
explained. I'm not even going to get into the whole
"Supes-has-no-mask-but-Clark-wears-glasses" thing, its been done
to death. I hope these views about fashion don't make me sound
like Joan Rivers.
Well, I won't try to talk you out of your opinion, but you ought
to know (if you don't already) that Supe's outfit was supposed to
resemble a circus strongman's outfit, complete with trunks and
laced boots. The superfluous part is actually the blue leggings,
which I presume were added for modesty's sake. Given that he was
the first, and that his costume had an original purpose now lost
to time and changing tastes, I'm inclined to give him a break.
As to the fingerprint thing, it was addressed in the '60s ad
nauseum. The Silver Age Superman mentioned (at every opportunity,
it seemed to me) that he vibrated his hand slightly whenever he
grasped anything, smudging the fingerprints. I dunno if any of
that still holds true, but I haven't heard it contradicted.
Further, Superman doesn't want to wear gloves any more than he
wants to wear a mask, because his REAL secret is that he isn't
Superman full time. (That secret saved him from being "outed" by
Luthor in Superman 2, 1987). Wearing gloves would be a dead
giveaway that he had a secret identity to hide.
Well here’s one correspondent who doesn’t
know how to appreciate past writers trying to offer up decent
entertainment. As for the blue leggings, what’s so wrong with them?
Yawn. Both parties have no idea how to thank Jerry Siegel and Joe
Shuster. Now comes April 13, 2000, and something not related to
comics per se:
This is a paragraph from an Oregonian article that
appeared last month.
<<Is Guinness pulling our mustaches?
A wise person learns to become wary of Web-borne stories,
so the new of a Guinness study of the amount of beer trapped
annually in the mustaches of bewhiskered drinkers must be viewed
skeptically. Still ... the purported study determined that
93,370 mustachioed Guinness drinkers in the U.K. lose as much as
162, 719 pints of Guinness Stout a year to "inter-fiber
retention." It reckoned the cost at 423,070 pounds ($675,900),
$19 per year per mustache, $14 per goatee and $37 in lost
Guinness for each full beard. >>
As a beer drinker with a mustache, I can attest to the inter-fiber
retention phenomenon. However, I have to note for the record that
I believe this study has an enormous procedural flaw: It doesn't
measure consumption of the beverage AFTER the retention has taken
place. The mustache-impaired may find this concept disturbing, but
I can assure you from an enormous experiential database that the
majority of the beverage eventually finds its way to the subject's
mouth, with some minuscule loss due to evaporation.
I dunno what this has to do with comics, but it's an interesting
I still don’t see the point in adding this
to his site if he didn’t think it was worth the time. Regardless, I
do voice disappointment he’s an alcohol consumer, though if there’s
any type of alcohol I really can’t stand, it’s whiskey, along with
its close relative, vodka. I say that because I once had the
misfortune of mistaking a jar with vodka for water at a party my
folks went to in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and what a nasty
experience that was. The only kind of alcohol I can stand is
sweet-flavored wine, the least intoxicating and doesn’t clash with
my medical prescriptions.
Hey Captain! I'm just wondering if you remember the
character Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld. She appeared notably
in Crisis on Infinite Earths 11 and had two miniseries and a
regular series in the mid-'80s. I picked up her miniseries from
the bargain bins and I found it quite entrancing.
A normal teenage girl, Amy Wilson discovers that she is
really Amethyst, the heir of one of the ruling houses of the
Gemworld. It is her duty to overthrow the evil Dark Opal and
free the Gemworld from his cruel regime.
In later adventures, she discovers that she is a Lord of
Order and eventually becomes the soul of the Sorceror's World in
the preboot Legion of Super-Heroes. She also appeared as a
villainess in the Books of Fate.
I know comics historically have had troubles in attracting
a female audience. I think that characters like Amethyst would
be vital in bringing in new female readers.
What do you think of Amethyst?
I loved "Amethyst" initially, despite the handicap of not being a
member of the target audience (adolescent girls). It had intrigue,
it had a fairy-tale quality, it had wish fulfillment (although not
the power fantasies of adolescent males). And, most importantly,
it had that wonderful Ernie Colon art! There was nothing else like
it on the stands, and it was a welcome relief from the J.
Lee/Liefeld/McFarlane art style and X-Men-angst writing style so
popular at the time.
As a result, I was pretty disappointed when they turned her into a
"standard" superhero (and later supervillain) character. The charm
disappeared, and it was just the same-old, same-old.
I understand why they did it, though -- Amethyst had failed in its
intital conception, so they reverted to type to boost sales.
Unfortunately, "reverting to type" means appealing to adolescent
boys, who aren't a bit interested in the hopes, dreams and wishes
of adolescent girls. In other words, DC shot themselves in the
foot with the character, IMHO.
My overall feeling is that Amethyst might have worked if they had
gone FURTHER into the interests of adolescent girls, perhaps
eschewing all superheroic elements from the get-go. God knows
young girls have little in popular entertainment directed at them.
And, of course, part and parcel of this approach would be to find
some sort of distribution method that might actually REACH young
girls -- Scholastic magazines, for example. Look how that's worked
for -- of all things -- Captain Underpants, which just hit the SIX
MILLION sales mark.
Talk about appealing to adolescent boys –
he’s one of them! “Reverting to type” is just what DC did with Jean
Loring, in a manner of speaking, by going the cheapskate route and
turning her into a one-dimensional monster because they despised
character drama and co-stars, and preferred appealing to perverted
troglodytes. I find his use of the word “initially” interesting,
because it suggests he lost whatever appreciation he had for the
original books from the mid-80s, and grew to dislike them.
If he really had any problems with Jean’s personality, then didn’t
he ever think about how everything could’ve worked better if the
writers had made better efforts in characterization? Why he can’t
recognize his contradictions is beyond me.
I’m also wondering how he feels about the reboot of Amethyst, as
seen in Christy Marx’s story from the brief Sword and Sorcery title,
featured an attempted rape of a classmate that the rebooted
Amy Winston thwarted. What turned that into a botch was that the
whole issue was mostly dropped and never mentioned again. Who says
the attempted rape by two ogres in the original was a problem?
Besides, over there, Amethyst managed to put up a fight.
AND YOU KNOW that I have The Klingon Hamlet. After
all, it translates Shakespeare from the original Klingon!
With regard to Star Trek VI, shouldn't that be, "It's
Shakespeare's classic in the original Klingon on the right-hand
pages, with the English translation on the left-hand pages."
You're both right, [withheld] and [same here]. I should have
remembered that Gen. Chang made it quite clear that Shakespeare
was a Klingon. My mistake!
And I should’ve come to realize earlier
that Mr. Smith was one of the most awful people you could find in
journalism. My mistake!
Dear Cap: I'm with ya on the X-Men movie. Haven't
seen the previews yet, but the still shots have me uneasy. And
hey , they didn't haveta use Spandex -- I think yellow/black
leather could have been neat. And the Spidey movie: Can there
really be a better story than the origin? It's got rasslin',
celebrity culture and a big fat moral. We all know this is gonna
be franchise; just film the first two together (like the '70s 3
Musketeeers and Superman) to save money, release the first one
at 90 minutes and the second six months later ...
As for comics, I almost missed the gay kiss in Authority
13 -- I had to go back and play "Where's Waldo" before I found
it at the bottom left-hand corner of the last panel on Page 14.
I guess I'm jaded, living in the gay mecca of the Bay Area, but
so what? Hope Apollo & Midnighter get engaged, and we have a
big Authority Annual a la FF Annual 3 with everybody and the
kitchen sink in attendance -- YEAH!
Although I was thrilled to see superheroes taking action
in the "real world," I do have one major beef. I've thought
about this a great deal, and I think for metahumans to have any
legitimacy in taking such action they should do so WITHOUT
KILLING ANYONE. That includes suspected war criminals and anyone
else. Otherwise, all the rest of the world is going to see is
the next level of "might makes right," which is what we've had
since the beginning of time. I suspect that writer Mark Millar
might well be aware of this, and guess that it will play out in
the storyline, but nonetheless was disappointed that the A's
coup in Southeast Asia was so unnecessarily bloody. What was
refreshing in Miracleman 15 years is depressingly hollow today
Taking a cue from your own [...], I find myself enjoying
the Hulk's mag again. While I fully expect Mary Jane to come
back to Spidey (we can't have TWO Gwen Stacys -- oops, three,
with a clone), Betty's exit from Bruce's life seems to have
energized writer Paul Jenkins to explore new depths of
depression for Greenskin. Sadistic I may be as well, but it's a
great fit for this character. I remember crying in my
adolescence over the death of Jarella in Hulk 205 (I've got a
real soft spot for green-skinned babes) and love it when writers
can show me the vulnerability in this indestructible creature.
(Hint: Howzabout Jarella in your Book of the Dead?)
Yum on The Atomics, bad paper and all.
Dunno what the beef was on Janson's inks on Kane's last
job in Legends; looked hot to me.
"Sins of Youth" covers are silly -- why get a manga style
artist to draw adult versions of teenage heroes when he just
makes 'em look like teenagers on steroids (or silicon)?
And I LIKE the new Avengers lineup -- 'specially with
Jennifer back (see aforementioned soft spot). Yeah, Baby! Top
Cow ain't got nothin' on this roster -- I'll put Wanda, Carol,
Jan & Jen up against the likes of Witchblade, Fathom, Dawn
& Co. any day. Hey, we know Cap 'n' Wondy won't be gone too
long, anyhoo. (Still waitin' for that Cap Defenders title --
Winghead & Doc Strange!)
One of these days I'll finally get bored enough to finish
the last few issues of Avengers Forever and Earth X, and to
begin reading the last (?) ishes of Marvel: The Lost Generation.
I'll see what I can do about Jarella when I have a
spare hour or two. Say, how do you feel about Orion slave women in
Star Trek? Just curious. (Heh, heh)
And I think you're spot on about The Authority. Their
justification for ignoring international law is that they'll do a
better job than the faceless men who "run the world" now. Their
bloody intervention in Indonesia was no better (and in many ways
worse) than U.N./NATO efforts to impose order on places like
But the UN/NATO didn’t impose “order” on
Bosnia. They imposed it on Serbia. As noted before, it was all a
bizarre pro-Islamist sham. In retrospect, it’s also weird how he
seemingly criticizes the UN, but when the war in Iraq took place, I
recall some discussions where he hinted he was critical of the Bush
administration. How odd. Why, in all the time since he wrote this,
what has he had to say about the recent embarrassments Mark Millar
and others who penned that Authority nonsense have scripted?
I haven't actually read many post-Crisis comics so a
lot of my knowledge about what happened to the continuity comes
second hand from talking to people more current than me. I
didn't read the Hal Jordan fiasco but was told about it. What
little I was told convinced me I didn't want to read it. The
death of Superman was big enough to make mainstream news so I
knew about it, and it seemed like nothing more than a marketing
ploy. I did pick up the annual where Superman and crew had a Doc
Savage like adventure (because I am a Doc fan) and he was still
in his blue state then. Mostly, I only buy limited series or
books that have some connection to the Golden or Silver Age. My
wife buys a lot more current books, but she is a Marvel fan for
the most part (X-Men in all their incarnations). We do buy a few
other series like Astro City (which I like a lot), The Authority
and Planetary (both of which started well but I am losing
interest), and Rising Stars.
<<Chaykin only has one character: An idealized version of
himself. He turned Blackhawk into a clone of Reuben Flagg,
Scorpion, Vector Pope (Pulp Fantastic)>>
I haven't read enough of Chaykin's other work to know, but that
is what I had heard. If his character is an idealized version of
himself, that doesn't speak well for him. His Blackhawk
was a pretty nasty character.
All Chaykin leading men are amoral, cynical, violent womanizers
who nevertheless always get the last word, and have women throwing
themselves at them. They also are taller, more masculine versions
of Chaykin himself. Doesn't take a psychology degree to figure
this one out.
As to your post-Crisis comments, the nice thing about comics is we
can always pull out our old ones, and they are just as valid as
anything currently being published.
He’s not accurate here. The old ones are
valid. The new ones are not. That’s the view I’ve taken since he
shamelessly fawned over Identity Crisis. And there’s another
correspondent whom I hope realizes that Mr. Smith is a dishonest
lot. Back in the mid-90s, not every comic was easy to find, not even
Green Lantern, so I was neither immediately or clearly aware of what
DC editorial did to Hal. And when I did find out exactly what
happened after my family got the internet in 1998, I was disgusted,
and feel glad that since then, I hadn’t read much of the Kyle Rayner
mishmash (not much more than a dozen issues, and what I have read
since did not make me feel I was missing anything). What I did read
was pretty forgettable anyway.
Well, I hope you're happy. :) Catwoman is as sleek
and nimble as any good thief should be. And her sex appeal has
dropped to zero. She looks like she's just out of high school
and what's worse is she's acting it. This 'I don't belong here'
storyline might have been interesting if the series had started
with it but now? She's played Iron Cat, she's been to
Apocalypse, She's broken Wall Street, and survived NML and now?
now she's a basket case? puh-lease ...
On a high note, for the most part Vertigo's Y2K specials
were decent reads but Four Horseman was a true work of art. Not
exactly a happy-go-lucky, make-me-feel good book but pretty
impressive just the same. The structure, the artwork, the story
itself, incredibly believable. Its probably incredibly
egocentric that we can redefine armageddon but hey, it almost
made me a believer.
Four Horsemen is demonstrating almost Alan Moore-level cleverness.
Not only am I enjoying it, but my mostly non-comics-reading wife
(see her new column starting this week on the site) rips it from
my hands when it comes in.
Interestingly, Bob Rodi is a former letterhack from the legendary
'70s letters-page period, when being a letterhack made you a
semi-celebrity in the comics community. You might be too young to
remember, but his fellows were Irene Vartanoff, Guy H. Williams
III, The Mad Maple and a couple of others, almost ALL of whom
ended up in The Biz in one form or another. Rodi has also written
a couple of minor novels. The out-of-print What Have They Done to
Princess Paragon? is one I enjoyed, and I recommend it if you're
not offended by homosexual-related themes. It involves an arrogant
comic-book writer turning Princess Paragon (read: Wonder Woman)
into a butch dyke, and an outraged fanboy of the unhygienic,
addled A Confederacy of Dunces ilk kidnapping him from a comics
convention in retaliation. Pretty funny in general, and hilarious
if you've ever attended a convention and been buttonholed by a
fat, smelly guy with waaaaay too many opinions and no social
I just got my March DCs yesterday, so I haven't seen the Cat In
Jail story yet. I hope you're exaggerating -- I was hoping that it
would be similar to the Constantine In Jail story currently
running in Hellblazer where we see the protagonist's true steel
emerge under the most dire circumstances imaginable. If it is as
you describe, though, I WILL be disappointed.
Sounds stupid and stereotypical to me. As
for Catwoman’s title, it was going downhill at the time Devin
Grayson took over the writing.
As for homosexual themes? I may not be offended, but that’s provided
they allow dissenters with the lifestyle to have their say and not
act like it’s throughly illegitimate to object. Whatever, I
certainly am tired of homosexuality being shoved into every corner
of entertainment when all I want to do is enjoy some simple escapism
that’s not tainted with agendas.
Hi Cap: I am an expert in the Freedom Fighters but
unfortunately I lean towards the pre-Crisis stuff. I only got
back into comics in '98 so I'm playing catch-up. I just bought
The Spectre trade (paperback) but haven't read it yet ... is
(the Uncle Sam revamp) in there?
From what I've heard no one sounds very happy with what
they've done with him. I think the folks at DC feel the same way
since we haven't seen Unc anywhere in a while. Oh, how I long
for those old days when a comic was a quarter and I could load
up on everything in the newstand. ... heh.
I jump at your column every week and really enjoy it a
lot. Can't say I have a lot of "local" support of my
comic-collecting bug and its great to have the Net where all us
comic freeks can share our passion.
As the Firesign Theatre says, we're all bozos on that bus! Without
the Net, we'd all be pretty isolated.
I can't answer your Spectre TPB question -- DC is real hit or miss
sending me TPBs for review, and I don't have any Spectre trades.
(And, of course, I don't buy them, since I have all the original
comics.) Anybody else out there know?
Personally, I’m not happy at all with Mr.
Smith’s inherent apologia for bad ideas like Identity Crisis. In
fact, I’m disgusted. Besides, he won’t admit he’s one of them bozos
on the bus, mostly likely a Volkswagen Transporter.
Dear Cap: Early in the last century, newspaper comics
were popular. Then someone got the bright idea of collecting
comic strips into comic "books," and the monthly comic-book
periodical was born, and still exists, although the price went
from 10 cents to about three dollars. Now the bookshelves are
filled with slick reprint trade paperbacks reprinting recent
episodes of our favorite heroes. How long do you think it will
be before someone starts regularly publishing these formats with
original material? Is history repeating itself? Are we seeing
the birth of the standard comics format of the new century? (I
know, I know, the new century does not start until NEXT Jan. 1.)
I'm no Nostradamus, but I can predict that a storm is a-comin'.
Standard economic theory suggests that the 32-page pamphlet will
prove unprofitable within a decade, so another format is
inevitable. But what? Online, Internet comics? Gigantic 100-Page
Super-Spectaculars for five or more dollars, mostly reprint? DC is
having astonishing success with its policy of keeping its TPBs in
print -- and barging into the Internet and brick-and-mortar
bookstore market. Is that the future? Or do we go the Japanese
route? Or will the 32-pager stagger on through inertia despite the
naysayers? I dunno what's gonna happen, but it WILL be
He’s no Nostradamus, nor did he predict
anybody would have the courage to say what they think of his
pro-establishment propaganda. In fact, as I’ve discovered over the
years, there are more than a few people out there who’ve found his
Re: Luthor and Kingpin
<<I think the comparison's completely valid; the history of
the characters is wildly different, but after multiple retcons and
such they've pretty much ended up in the same place. I won't jump
to the conclusion that the new Luthor was copied from Kingpin,
though -- >>
The origin of the new Luthor is an interesting one. The idea of
Lexcorp did not originate in the comics-Lexcorp was created by
Elliot S! Maggin in the novel Superman: The Last Son of Krypton,
a fact he pointed out to the editors of Who's Who. (Maggin also
wrote Superman: Miracle Monday.) Maggin's book was ostensibly a
novelization of the 1978 Superman film, but really wasn't. In
this book, Maggin extrapolated on his own version of Luthor's
origin that he could not introduce into the comics, so Luthor
was something of a businessman type in the novel. (The Kingpin,
by the way, had been introduced in 1967, though he had yet to
appear in Daredevil when this novel was published.)
Yet Maggin was not the only one to imagine Luthor this
way. Marv Wolfman, as a kid, always wondered where Luthor got
his money to hatch his schemes if he was always in prison, so he
imagined that Luthor had at one point been a respectable
businessman. (Incidentally, Wolfman says he got this idea when
he was a kid, so he could not have been thinking of the Kingpin.
After all, the Kingpin was introduced in 1967 and Wolfman wasn't
a kid in 1967 -- he wrote the last issue of Blackhawk to be
released in the 1960s, after all!) Wolfman later decided to
revamp Luthor this way, but DC Comics did not let him, so his
plan for the new Luthor was used for Vandal Savage instead in
Action Comics 553. However, in 1986, John Byrne revamped
Superman, so Wolfman was finally allowed to introduce the new
Luthor as Luthor. He worked closely with Byrne and wrote some of
the Superman stories released soon after.
I've heard some of that in Wolfman interviews, but not all the
principals agree with his version of events. What source are you
using, by the way? I'd like to compare the various claims someday.
What sources does Mr. Smith use for some
of the Golden and Silver Age characters whom he’s disrespected under
his belief they’re “real” people?
Since you've asked for my answers to the same
questions that I posed to you, I figured I'd take a shot. Here
1) What are your thoughts about the following comics
creators and industry folk?
Warren Ellis: I think Warren Ellis can spin a few good
yarns, but he suffers from the immature tendency to do things
simply for shock value. He reminds me of a child who soils
himself just to get a reaction from those around him. While that
doesn't detract from his talent, it doesn't help.
Grant Morrison: A problem that I have with British writers
in general is the desire to tear down icons simply to tear them
down. When it serves a purpose, fine. But, to do so just for its
own sake is annoying and smug. That said, Morrison seems to be
of two minds on this. On the one hand, Morrison has restored
grandeur and the epic feel of the classic stories to the JLA. On
the other hand, he has also mentioned that if he were to write
the Fantastic Four he would explore what he perceives an
incestuous desires that Sue Richards has for her brother Johnny
among other deviant things.
Kurt Busiek: Overall, a good writer in the "old school"
tradition (which I enjoy). His Thunderbolts was both riveting
and surprising. Unfortunately, his dialogue can come off a
little hokey at times. In this way he reminds me of Steve
Englehart. Englehart could spin a yarn, but some of that
dialogue made me cringe.
Todd McFarlane: I admired Todd more before the Spawn
marketing machine became the monster that it did. Blunt, to the
point and honest, I appreciated McFarlane more in the beginning,
even if I didn't necessarily agree with his statements all the
time. It seems that in his quest to bring Spawn to a more
"mainstream" audience, McFarlane has become disingenuous and a
shallow huckster. Maybe he was all along ...
Rob Liefeld: Did you hear about the new How to Draw Comics
The Rob Liefeld Way? It's 250 pages long. All tracing paper ...
Frank Miller: A straight-shooter, and this one has talent,
to boot! I love most of his work. He continues to do excellent
work. If I had one gripe with Miller, it is that he has often
declared that you can't do much more with superheroes than has
already been done. Then he proceeds to write stories for that
vastly untapped genre. Y'know, "crime" stories.
Alan Moore: One of the best. He made me care about Swamp
Thing. With all due respect to Wrightson and Wein, that is
something no one else ever did. I enjoy his current projects,
especially League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Tom Strong. He
puts all the terminally late "fan fave" artists to shame with
his workload! LoEG may be late, but he's able to keep three
other books coming and that's a nice average.
Hart Fisher: Hart Fisher, publisher of Boneyard Press and
writer of the infamous Kill Image and Rush Limbaugh Must Die.
Outspoken, opinionated, and in-your-face. Like I said before, I
appreciate a straight-shooter, but I don't appreciate being an
arse. Fisher is another one of those people that does things
solely to get a reaction out of others. Difference between
Fisher and Ellis? Ellis has talent.
Gary Groth: Pretentious windbag who can't stomach the fact
that there are actually people who enjoy superhero fantasy. Of
course, Groth would probably analyze those people as perverted
males on a power fantasy. It's probably because that was what
his fantasies were when he read Superman and he is self-loathing
to the degree that he projects that neurosis onto others.
Frankly, I find it interesting that Groth and his elitist,
alternative snobs seem to believe that the only way to validate
the alternative press is to abolish the mainstream. "Read and
let read" is apparently a concept that Groth cannot quite grasp.
If Groth deserves any credit, it is for arranging Hart Fisher to
interview Rob Liefeld in Comics Journal 195 (and say what you
will about Liefeld, he handled that particular interview with
finesse and decorum).
2) What is your opinion on Overstreet?
I believe that the Overstreet Price Guide was a great aid
for collectors in the beginning. As a rule, price guides reflect
the marketplace and present an average of what a book is being
sold for by dealers. The guide can be much more than that. In
the early days of fandom there was not much to go by if one
wanted to find out how many issues were published of Santa
Comics, or somesuch title. A guide was extremely helpful and
informative in alerting fans about what artist drew what comic,
which character appeared first in which comic, and what year.
Unfortunately, any time money is involved in something
there is the tendency for those in control of pricing, or
reporting of those prices, to manipulate things to benefit
themselves. Overstreet has had its share of problems in this
area in the past years, but thankfully it isn't a Wizard!
3) What torture should we devise for Joe "Mad"
(Battlechasers), and J. Scott Campbell (Danger Girl)?
If they think they are tired of hearing the retailers,
distributors and fan press complain about their inexcusable
lateness, Joe "Mad" and Campbell should be locked in a small,
airtight room alone with 50 irate fans constantly asking,
"Y'done yet? When's it comin'?" We'll toss in Hart Fisher and
Gary Groth and watch the fun begin!
4) Do you think Marvel will realize that cutting a title
off before it has a chance to gain a following is every bit as
detrimental to our li'l hobby's health as it is to flood the
market with gimmicks and variants?
Cap'n Comics replied: "I have to defend Marvel here --
it's not the editors and executives pulling the trigger on axed
titles, it's the bankers. Marvel is being micromanaged by the
holders of their debt: faceless, soulless beancounters who work
for large financial institutions who couldn't care less if the
entire industry went belly up as long as they got their interest
payments. Ugly, but true."
On this note, Marvel (the corporate entity) has recently
brought back Bill Jemas as Publisher. Jemas originally worked
with Marvel from 1992 to 1996, serving as the president of
Fleer, prior to becoming the executive VP of Marvel. In other
words, this guy was part of the team that dragged the industry
to its knees! And Marvel brings him back? What th --?!? Why not
bring back Perelman and finish the company off?
5) Betty or Veronica, Gwen or Mary Jane, Lois or Lana ...
Betty, cuz she's sweet. MJ, cuz she's fun. Lana, cuz Lois
is a pain in the neck.
6) "Sins of Youth"?
Entertaining. A bit overdone.
7) Is the market missing out by not publishing comics on
current TV shows (a la Dell and Gold Key), like Dawson's Creek,
Third Rock from The Sun and any others that might be appropriate
comic book material and/or draw in a fresh, young audience?
One reason I mentioned Third Rock is that brand of sitcom
is one that I feel would translate well into comics form.
Dawson's and its ilk would do good to bring in that
little-realized comics audience: teen girls.
Well spoken, young sir! I agree with just about all of your
remarks. All I have to add is:
On the FF front, if there's any simmering, subliminal sexual
tension on the team, I'd assume it would be between Sue and BEN,
not Johnny. Ben was a big, handsome football player before the
fateful rocket flight, and Sue was a flighty teenager. If there
WASN'T some flirting -- or actual sex -- between the two, I'd be
surprised. And that would give Ben one MORE reason to resent Reed.
Morrison's Sue/Johnny speculation is from so far out in left field
-- I've certainly seen no hint of it in 40 years -- I have to
guess that Morrison was just tweaking our noses. I have two
sisters, and the idea of sex with either of them is so nauseating
(and always has been) that the prohibition against incest is
probably hard-wired into our lizard brains as much as it is social
conditioning. Morrison's idea must have been a joke -- or else he
needs serious therapy.
As to Jemas's return: Did you read his interview in Comics
Retailer? He still hasn't learned a darn thing about comics
publishing ... but now, unfortunately, he thinks he's an expert!
And he made reference to Marvel's "teen market" a few too many
times for me to feel comfortable.
I don't want to go into too much Groth-bashing -- he's become such
a caricature of himself that it's almost unnecessary! But I will
note the following, and then shut up:
1) Any publisher who touts the inherent superiority of his
intellectual funnybooks, but has to support them by selling
hard-core pornography (Eros Comix) is so out of touch with reality
that any comment I have is superfluous.
2) Groth's incessant refrain that superheroes are killing the
industry is not only irritating, but intellectually dishonest. As
Kurt Busiek and others have argued, superheroes (and teen humor)
are simply the last man standing -- the last genre fans haven't
abandoned for other entertainment. Blaming superheroes for the
decline of the industry is like blaming the survivors of Titanic
for the existence of icebergs. Despite his intellectual
pretensions, Groth keeps bashing superheroes because he,
personally, doesn't like them.
Look who’s talking about Jemas, but not
about Dan DiDio, or even Axel Alonso and Dan Buckley! No, he
succumbed to PC long ago, selectively or otherwise. It’s downright
laughable how one day he’ll be critical of certain executives yet
the next he’ll have nothing to say about others. Even Paul Levitz is
not above criticism after the poor, insular job he did with comics
marketing, among other things that destroy the notion he was ever
respectable of all the fine properties in his care. He’s another
company bigwig whom Mr. Smith never criticized clearly, and probably
had no true issues with his MO.
He complains about Mr. Groth’s approach to the situations at stake,
but never once considers his own promotion of perverted trash like
Identity Crisis – and
communist propaganda – dishonest as well. In fact, I’m not
sure he’s been particularly negative about Groth since the time this
was written in 2000, maybe because he decided the time had come to
go PC and not rub his fellow J. Jonah Jamesons the wrong way.
Interestingly, Mr. Smith easily counts as a caricature himself, so
I’m not sure why he had a beef with Groth to start with, except
maybe stemming from a self-indulgent desire to make himself sound
like he was better when he’s not.
In fact, if and whenever Mr. Smith bashes superhero co-stars like
Jean Loring, he’s doing something very similar to what he accuses
Mr. Groth of doing. Food for thought.
You wrote: <<Charm School is a
Sabrina-meets-Sappho affair about a good teen witch in Little
Salem whose affections are torn between a "bad Faerie" and her
vampire biker gal pal. Stop giggling, they're serious here. Not
for kids, of course.>>
[withheld] signed up for this series. It should be interesting
(presuming, of course, that it actually ships).
<<Meanwhile, for those of you (like the Captain) who
wondered why a swell chick like Betty Cooper pined away for the
feckless Archie Andrews, Betty 87 is for you.>>
I have wondered that. Often, in fact. Betty is the only one in
that entire cast that's worth anything as a human being. The
only other character that stands out for me is, believe it or
not, Reggie. The issue of Betty where they dated each other
instead of chasing after Archie and Veronica is one of the very
few times that I've ever purchased an Archie title for myself.
<<Meanwhile, the equally busty, superpowered Caitlin
Fairchild is afflicted with amnesia and imagines herself to be
Supergirl in Superman/Gen13 1 (of 3, DC/WildStorm, $2.50). Both
are likely to be secondary-sex-characteristic extravaganzas, if
you like that sort of thing. Ahem.>>
Actually, [withheld] also reserved Superman/Gen13. I read it
and it's good. I mean really good. It'd be great if the
regular Gen13 creative team could be this good. And Fairchild in
a Supergirl costume? Yummmmm.
<<Hmmm. (Storm's) the daughter of an American father and an
African mother, born in Africa. Would she qualify as a native-born
Yes. A child born of an American travelling or stationed abroad
(wasn't her dad an ambassador?) qualifies for dual citizenship
-- America and the country of birth. Ororo truly is an
African-American! (This is what I remember from school, anyway.)
<<I think for virtually every reader, the "real" X-Men are
whoever was on the team when they first started reading X-Men (or
first got excited about X-Men).>>
For me it's the team that "died" during the "Fall of the
Mutants" storyline. I'd read a couple of issues of Uncanny X-Men
before that, but this was the storyline that actually started me
collecting the X-titles.
<<Frank Miller: Puts movies to paper.>>
Just remember that one of his actual movies was Robocop II --
and it stank to high Heaven.
<<Betty or Veronica, Gwen or Mary Jane, Lois or Lana ... and
Betty, 'cause Veronica is a selfish *&$*& and Betty is
the best young woman ever to grace the comic-book format. MJ
because she's fun and exciting (Gwen was nice, but just nice).
Being of the younger generation, I'd go with the post-Crisis
Lois over Lana for the same reason that I choose MJ over Gwen.
<<This book is about SATAN!>>
Which seems like a darned (pun intended) good reason not to
<<RELATIVE HEROES #4 (Of 6)>>
If this came out then Jenn was skipped 'cause she didn't
receive her copy.
<<ALLEY CAT #6>>
<<ARIA/ANGELA: HEAVENLY CREATURES #1: Battle of the Bosoms.
Wasn't Valentino going to surgically remove all the T&A from
Image? Get to it,
Cap, you couldn't be anymore wrong about this title. Again,
this is one of Jenn's titles, but it's far better than anything
that I bought this week. Bloody good story AND art. Rush to a
retailer and grab a copy. Heck, I'll give you a money-back
guarantee: you don't like it and I'll send you a check (and you
keep the book!). It's that good.
<<UNCANNY X-MEN #381>>
I read it without buying it -- an advantage of working part
time in a comic-book store -- and hated it. I can barely believe
that people are actually glad that Claremont is back on the
X-books. What a load of malarky!
<<KISS PSYCHO CIRCUS #28>>
On the one hand there is no way in heck that I'll read this
title. On the other hand, there are people that come into my
shop looking for this book that otherwise wouldn't set foot into
a comic-book store. It's existence is, therefore, a good thing.
<<X-MEN THE HIDDEN YEARS #7>>
The only X-title that I buy. I'm wavering on canceling it. I
like it, but I don't love it. With all of Marvel's prices
jumping up again, it may be crossed from my pull list.
It occurs to me that I may have made what seems to be a
paradox. I mention that [withheld] was skipped on a few titles
(presuming that they actually skipped) but also that I'm working
part-time in a comic-book shop. What's happening is that we are
continuing to buy from Things From Another World through this
month. This allows benefits TFAW in that we'll be buying
everything we ordered and it works well because of the two-month
lead time on orders means that Pegasus (where I work) will start
being able to fill our orders beginning in May.
Good points, [withheld]. All I have to add is:
I can't get a straight answer on the Storm thing from the pros at
the newspaper and the library. The prevailing opinion is that she
probably qualifies for native-born American status even though her
mother was Nigerian and she was born (apparently) in Egypt. Not
everyone agrees, though. (Oh, and her father was a
photojournalist, not an ambassador.)
I cut Miller a lot of slack on RoboCop II. He didn't direct it, or
act in it, or storyboard it, or produce it. And you know as well
as I do that 10 minutes after he turned in his script, the studio
had fifteen other "writers" doctoring it.
Aria/Angela: I read it and it was pretty good. But there was
plenty of what I consider T&A in the book, even if it didn't
strike you that way. I guess women who are as anatomically
unlikely as Barbie standing around in their lingerie in sexually
suggestive poses is de rigeur these days, and I shouldn't let it
bother me. I ignored the (what I consider) T&A, and did indeed
enjoy the story. But MUST we have Jim Lee/Michael Turner women in
every comic book we read?
I feel about KISS comics the way I do about wrestling comics and
porno -- they're not my cup of tea, but I'm glad they're out
there. If the publishers only made comics that I personally liked,
the industry woud go under tomorrow. I wish there were a LOT more
comics out there that I hated -- because it would mean there were
a lot of people out there buying comics, not just me and my six
On Turner, I will say I’ve lost a lot of
respect for him after he drew the covers for Identity Crisis, which
easily counts as a tacit endorsement of the story inside. And the
correspondent (who’s also a former co-writer of Mr. Smith’s) must’ve
changed his mind about Turner and Lee after they became so PC,
especially the latter in his new role as a DC company exec. I
certainly can’t say I saw any serious criticism leveled against
Turner and Lee by these baboons after Identity Crisis happened. To
be honest, it’s regrettable Turner had to stumble so badly, because
his artwork on Witchblade in its early years was pretty good. When
he came to DC and drew the Supergirl reboot in the Superman/Batman
series from 2004, it just didn’t suit the scene, and much like
Fathom, the story was too flaccid to work out. I suppose Turner was
almost like a one-trick pony, doing one good thing and then failing
to impress much further, and downright embarrassing his career with
cover drawings for IC, a black spot on his career.
<<I remember that Sandman story too, but the one I'm
thinking about was a three- or four-parter that detailed a
drug-addled slacker named Prez Rickard and two companions
road-tripping across America in search of Prez's father. In the
course of the story he has a bad trip and hallucinates many of the
events of the 1973 Prez series. I seem to remember it as a
miniseries, but it may have taken place within another Vertigo
book -- Sandman, The Dreaming or Shade, perhaps. Anybody else
It was a Vertigo Visions one-shot, about a year after the
Brother Power, The Geek special. And this was still the
alternate America of The Sandman story. The kid was named Prez,
and his mother told him that was because his father was Prez
Rickard, who had disappeared many years before. He and his
friends sought Prez out, only to discover that he had died (but
the dream lives on ...)
Thanks [withheld]! Given your info, I looked it up: Vertigo
Visions: Prez was published in 1995.
I really don’t see what’s so great about
this story from Sandman, but again, I’ll say it’s probably nowhere
near as questionable as Robinson’s Starman, and in all due fairness,
Sandman was mostly a horror-thriller title.
A few thoughts about your April 6 edition, and a
1) Grant Morrison intimated in last year's JLA/JSA
crossover that Plastic Man has indeed been around since the WWII
era; Wildcat mentioned they grew up together in the same
orphanage. I just assumed that his "plasticness" is what's kept
him so spry. But the great thing about Plas is that it doesn't
make a difference; he's so unabashedly ridiculous that you don't
feel the need to have him operate within the faux reality of the
rest of the JLA. I'm usually a real stickler for continuity, but
you could tell me that Plastic Man was born in ancient Egypt,
invented the seed drill, and was the fifth Beatle and for some
reason, I still wouldn't care.
2) Storm would be eligible for the U.S. presidency, since
her mother was
American. As long as your born to an American citizen, you
are a citizen from birth, even if you're born out of the
country. (You need to have lived in the country for at least 14
years to become Chief Executive, though.) FDR, for example, was
born in Canada to American parents who were on vacation.
3) On the topic of homosexual kisses in comics, does
anyone remember the consummation of love between the Brain and
M'sieu Mallah just before they died in Morrison's Doom Patrol?
The Brain was in a masculine humanoid body at the time, and
while Mallah was an ape, he had always been established as male.
Yes, they were villains, yes, it's not exactly a mainstream
comic, yes, that comic made almost no sense (to me at least),
but they did kiss, and I think that counts.
4) I'm really digging the "new direction" of the
Bat-titles. No Man's Land sort of lost me -- a bit too much
disbelief to suspend, I'm afraid -- but I've found the recent
stories to be refreshingly realistic, with a wonderful emphasis
on establishing Gotham as a "real" place with a coherent,
5) Finally, the rant: Did anyone else feel really let down
by the conclusion to the Mageddon storyline in JLA? It seemed
like an absolute mess to me. I thought that three Leaguers were
supposed to die, but by my count, there were zero: Aztek's been
out of the League -- and the DC Universe, pretty much -- for 2
1/2 years, so he doesn't count, and Zauriel came back (plus,
he's an angel!)
I have no idea why Wonder Woman, Flash, et al, felt the
need to turn everyone on earth into metahumans. As far as I
could tell, all these incredibly poorly organized and
non-trained masses did was fly into space and die. (What were
they all going to do? Punch the machine?) And were the people
ever turned back to normal? (I assume so, but that was never
stated.) Should we expect a JLA/Top Ten crossover?
Plus, are we supposed to infer from the last few pages
that the League is back to the Big 7? (Okay, Huntress was kicked
out, Orion and Barda left. But did Plastic Man recover? Where's
Steel? And Zauriel?) Maybe I missed something, but I've been
through each of the issues in this story arc at least twice, and
that should be enough for a college graduate reading a
I've enjoyed Morrison's JLA -- the epic nature of the
storylines, the delightful character interaction -but I'm glad
he's leaving, 'cause he really has a tendency to fry my clams.
The incomprehensible plot lines, the amount of pertinent action
that we don't see (did anyone else notice that Barda was nearly
stung to death by the Queen Bee OFF-PANEL?!) I mean, thanks,
Grant, it's been a blast, and you did wonders with the Shaggy
Man, but I'm looking forward to Mark Waid to clear things up a
Thanks, Cap. I feel better now.
Glad to provide a service, [withheld], whatever it was.
Anyway, as my comments last week in the "New Comics" section
should indicate, I feel strongly also that it's time for Morrison
to move on. I've ranted about Morrison's inability to keep a plot
coherent for a couple of years now, while simultaneously raving
about his characterization, interpersonal relationships, powerful
symbolism, etc. As Mr. Monkey says in his review this week, it was
a great show, but we're glad it's over.
I didn't draw any conclusions from JLA 41 -- in fact, I barely
understood it! That last panel was clearly a celebratory pin-up,
and the whole issue was Morrison patting himself on the back, a
trick he pulled more than once in Animal Man. There were some good
character bits -- Batman being Mr. Positive and Superman being Mr.
Negative, Kyle getting to "feel" like Green Lantern, Superman
trying to get Batman to admit he enjoys being in the League -- but
overall Morrison had lost his grip on the story months ago. So
like you and Mr. Monkey, I enjoyed his run, but am really, really
ready for Waid.
As to the Brain/M'sieu Mallah tryst, I remember it vividly! It
took me two days to pick my jaw up off the floor! I had read about
these characters for decades without the thought ever occurring to
me that there must be a reason for the unswerving loyalty to
criminal masterminds by their oft-endangered employees. And after
it did ... I started looking at other henchmen a little
differently. I mean, think about Otis and Luthor in Superman: The
Movie. Luthor asked "Why do I, the most brilliant mind in the
world, surround myself with imbeciles?" Good question, Lex. Having
seen Deliverance, I'm afraid I know the answer.
Gee, if he really had an issue with
Morrison’s writing at the time, he’s long ceased having one! I
recall he referred to Morrison as a “fan-favorite” at one point in
his column several years ago, and did the same with Mark Millar, and
was otherwise quite favorable to them. Things sure can change, eh?
I used to be for Waid too, but he’s gone shockingly downhill into
leftism since (much like Morrison and Millar), and worse, he’s
revealed himself to have a
very crass manner, so much that Twitchy took notice. It’s a
shame that a guy who introduced a teen superhero in Bart Allen back
in 1994 is now making it hard to appreciate his older work. I
certainly can’t appreciate the newer. Now for April 20, 2000:
Hi, Cap: Now, before I get nit-picky, I realize that
when someone from Stafford's Eastside asked you about Rick
Jones's history you responded: "Rick has a 38-year history with
Marvel, so you'll forgive me if I don't look up every single
issue he's appeared in ..." but I thought I'd point out that you
forgot about ROM. How could anyone forget about Rick's stellar
appearances in ROM, Spaceknight? Yeesh!
The fact of the matter is that I DID completely forget about
Rick's short (two years) sojourn in ROM! I re-read those issues
(ROM 53-75) last week to refresh my memory -- and, boy, were those
books lousy! ROM was good on occasion, but it never rose above
cliche, and the last two years of the title featured Steve Ditko
art well past his prime.
Anyway, thanks for pointing it out! As you can see, I cannibalized
that answer for this week's column, and Rick's tour of duty in ROM
is proudly represented.
While Bill Mantlo’s career has some output
that’s sadly questionable or plain embarrassing, I wouldn’t go so
far to say his work on those early examples of licensed products
based on toys was “lousy”. All I see is an arrested adolescent who
can’t appreciate the sincerity of some stories, and who’s taking
another cynical swipe at Ditko, who’s no saint, but doesn’t deserve
this foolish putdown either.
Hey Cap! You may have heard this from a number of
people, but it's been reported by several sources (the Daily
Buzz at AnotherUniverse.com and the Comic Wire at
ComicBookResources.com) that Frank Miller is returning in a big
way to the "Big Two" publishers with the characters he is most
identified with -- special Daredevil projects illustrated by
Bill Sienkiewicz (following up a long-unfinished storyline from
Miller's original run on the Daredevil series -- I had heard of
a collaboration between the two entitled "Drop Dead," as in
"drop-dead gorgeous," but am not sure if it is the same,
reported at WordsAndPictures.org) and John Romita Jr., and a
sequel to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, written and
illustrated by him and colored by Lynn Varley. Your thoughts?
Well, the ink isn't on the bottom line yet, so it might still fall
through. But if true, I'll be first in line with my wallet out.
I really wouldn't want to see a sequel to Dark Knight Returns -- I
think Miller said all he needed to, and I'm afraid an addition
would simply water it down. But any take he cares to make on The
Batman couldn't help but be terrific. And his Daredevil has always
been outstanding; he could do as he pleased in that sandbox, too.
I hope Miller isn't returning to "mainstream" funnybooks because
Sin City isn't making him enough money. I'd rather he was
returning to the characters because he had something to say. Not
that we'll know either way, of course.
And by the way, thanks ESPECIALLY for spelling "Sienkiewicz"
right, so I didn't have to look it up!
What’s anyone betting that, if Miller’s
Holy Terror had been a Batman story, he wouldn’t say it was
terrific, assuming he’d say anything at all? He certainly didn’t
come to Miller’s defense, that’s for sure.
Dear Cap: Good column this week!
I was perusing the Another Universe news updates --
there's a lot of crazy stuff going on:
1) Stan Lee doing this project for DC. Is it me, or does
this feel like Santa Claus reading Torah? Still, from what I
gather, it looks kind of anticlimactic -- he's doing entirely
new versions of Superman, Batman, et al., and it looks like
their only real connection with the originals will be the name.
But, hey, wow.
2) Is this Dark Knight Returns sequel for real? Hasn't
Miller written off mainstream superheroes? Doesn't he seem a bit
like a punk for crawling back? Don't get me wrong, I love the
guy's work, I loved the original, I'm crazy excited for this,
but I'm a little incredulous of this project. And I have to
wonder what exactly Miller's motivations are for doing this.
3) The Batman musical: Good lord, this is what we all
feared. Back in college, I actually wrote my thesis on the
history and nature of the Batman character, and it occurred to
me in my analysis that a big, melodramatic Broadway musical
would be strangely appropriate. And here we are. Jim Steinman
(who wrote all of Meatloaf's music) is probably the most
melodramatic songwriter in the history of popular music, so
he'll certainly pour on the schmaltz (I can already see some
precocious 10-year-old theater brat belting out his misery over
a couple of dead bodies -- cue "fluttering bats" sound effect).
But the book is by David Ives, a playwright who's known for
playful, erudite comedy (his collection of one-acts, All In The
Timing, is pure genius). I'm a little worried he may give it too
much of a cheesy, Adam West-ish feel.
The fact is, we asked for this. We insisted that Batman
become this epic, dramatic, yet human character, and Broadway
eats that stuff up with a spoon. Still, I think it'll bomb --
the idea is just too ridiculous by mainstream theater standards.
I know, they're not selling it to the NYC theater crowd, they're
selling it to Mom and Pop Wisconsin who are in town for
Christmas and are disappointed that Grease is sold out. But the
public just does not take superheroes with depth (even the depth
of a Broadway-musical character) seriously.
But I'll be there opening night, by God!
1) On Stan Lee: Yeah, that's the way I feel. It's just so ...
weird! It probably won't be very good (his most recent comic-book
work -- Savage She-Hulk No. 1 and Ravage -- weren't particularly
memorable) but just the fact of it gives me warm fuzzies. And to
think I'll actually be able to read authentic Stan Lee dialogue
for 12 issues, instead of the wannabes who've aped him for years!
2) On Miller: See my response to [name withheld], above.
3) On the Batman musical: Our precedent here is It's a Bird, It's
a Plane ... , the awful 1966 Superman musical. Not very
On the other hand, when I heard somebody was going to do Phantom
of the Opera way back when, I thought it was heresy -- nothing
could equal the Lon Chaney silent, I thought. But it turned out
OK, I suppose, and made the Phantom's story common knowledge (and
my enthusiasm for it less geeky). Let's cross our fingers on the
Batman musical -- nothing short of the Apocalypse is going to stop
With all due respect to Lee, I’ll have to
admit another blogger’s argument he’s out of touch with today’s
readers is valid. That aside, it’s kind of silly to compare Lee to
Santa, since Lee’s ancestry is Jewish, and if memory serves, some of
his family tree came from Romania.
Dear Cap: I went to Wondercon last weekend and found
Peter David's Captain Marvel 1. Finally was able to read the
first five issues, and whaddaya know, he's got green-skinned
wimmin in them! That, plus the great battle-cry, has shot this
title to the top of my list. Any chance we could get P. David on
the Fantastic Four -- even just a guest shot or miniseries? I'm
SOOO hungry for a good FF story ...
I saw the X-Men trailer, too. Not bad, but they coulda
solved the problem with Halle Berry's frightful wig by just
using Ororo's headdress ...
Oh, no, we can't have any superhero paraphernalia in this
movie! Don't be absurd!
And I hope you've read the latest C.M. -- They're on Jarella's
world! Green wimmin everywhere! And they're going to give it a
better explanation than that preposterous, unworkable idea that
Jarella's world was a speck of dirt on the Hulk's jeans.
Why shouldn’t it be
workable that K’ai was a subatomic planet, and a microcosmos? Gee, I
thought this was just comics! I suppose when leftist
politics are involved, that’s the only time he’s willing to argue
the point? Figures. And this is another one of his subtle insults to
Roy Thomas, from what I can tell. Incidentally, if a wig doesn’t
look great on the actress playing Storm, why not give her some hair
dye? Why was that never considered?
Hey Cap: I meant to write to you last week but was
caught in overtime hell. Away we go ...
1) Claremont's return: I'm not convinced it was the same
guy writing X-Men 100 and Uncanny X-Men 381. The latter, for me,
was thoroughly enjoyable. Snappy pacing, intriguing
characterization and neat-o, whiz-bang Sci-Fi stuff. Yes, the
villains were lame, but Rogue, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and
Colossus were utterly believable. And I enjoyed the new
costumes, too. All in all, a pretty good read.
But in Uncanny -- what the heck was going on in that
thing? Where the heck were they? What the heck happened to
Phoenix's powers (a Phoenix isn't a Phoenix without
telekinesis)? I wasn't even thrilled with Adam Kubert's new
character designs and I normally dig his stuff. Phoenix looked
OK except for the ski boots. But the rest of the team's look was
just godawful. Beast in goggles and a hood?!? And does Storm
have some balm for that junk on her arms? Am I alone in this
discrepancy? Help me out, Cap.
2) Storm's birthplace: I would swear she was actually born
in the States. Didn't Claremont and Byrne establish this with
some story of Ororo in Harlem? Sweet Christmas, I think Luke
Cage and Misty Knight were guests. Anyone else remember?
3) X-Men movie: I knew it would be this way, so I'm not
really disappointed. In fact, I'm still rather looking forward
to it, wrong costumes and all. I guess I think of these movie
translations as a kind of What If? in live action. Also, correct
me if I'm wrong, but WB's wildly popular Batman and Superman
series don't stick to continuity and have different character
designs. Nightwing, for example, looks completely different than
his comic-book counterpart (looks kind of like a blue Phoenix in
the cartoon!). Why hasn't anyone complained about that? It would
seem even easier to stick to the comic-book looks in animated
4) Nega bands: Waaaaaaaay outta my depth here, but doesn't
Quasar have a set?
5) The Authority: Just started reading it, but wow, is it
good! And the thing with the kiss? Did they issue a press
release or something for the media to latch onto? I didn't see
it until my fourth or fifth read. And I agree with (you about)
The Authority's flouting of international law. At some point,
wouldn't some pissed-off nation just target some nukes at the
That's all from me, for now. Keep up the good work, Cap!
1) I haven't liked the trends in costumes for years. First there
was everybody-in-armor stylin' (including, at one point "Steel
Spider"), then the extraneous straps and pockets trend (a la
Cable), then the leather jacket craze (even Spidey and the Legion
of Super-Heroes sported them!) now the Boyz N the Hood style,
where everybody dresses like a yo-yo-yo crack dealer. These
attempts to be "with it" never look with it -- they just look
As for Phoenix's TK powers, I presume that when they get around to
telling us what happened in the missing six months since Cyclops's
"death" we'll find out why. But given Claremont's propensity for
dragging subplots out for decades, by the time we find out we
won't care any more. (Like Storm's Mohawk look -- he eventually
explained that in a throwaway line about three years after she
dropped it. I was so unmoved that at this writing I can't even
remember what the lame explanation was.)
2) I have the answer at last. The Commercial Appeal's library --
what we used to call a "morgue" -- dredged up the actual law.
Here's the pertinent part:
"U.S. Code, Title 8 (Aliens and Nationality), Chapter 12
(Immigration and Nationality), Subchapter III (Nationality and
"The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United
States at birth:
"Section (g): A person born outside the geographical limits of the
United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom
is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who,
prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the
United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods
totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were
after attaining the age of 14 years ..."
There are some more herewiths, heretofores and albeits that
follow, but my interpretation is that Storm has been an American
citizen since birth, and therefore eligible to run for President.
Fortunately for us all, there's a bill before Congress which
streamlines all this mumbo-jumbo severely. Let's hope it passes.
3) I hadn't noticed the cartoon Nightwing was substantially
different the comic-book version -- largely because my local WB!
affiliate doesn't carry Batman or Superman any more! Wah! But I
just assumed that the Nightwing outfit in Batman: Gotham
Adventures was the same as the cartoon (as it is slightly
different than the "real" one). Is this not so? Anybody know?
4) Quasar DID have the Nega Bands, before he became "Protector of
the Universe." Then he got some other kinda magic bracelets. I'd
have to look it up, but I missed most of the "Cosmic" line that
Marvel briefly did, because their comps were so erratic at that
time. Anybody want to do the legwork?
5) Mark Millar was telling anybody who'd listen before Authority
13 came out that he expected to be crucified for the kissing scene
-- he was so worried about it that he did numerous interviews to
make sure nobody missed it! It was a little disengenuous. I
suspect he wanted to make sure he got the credit for the first
And what I find difficult about the Indonesian intervention is
that I always assumed that The Authority's authority was MORAL
authority -- the need to do the right thing, regardless of
official protocol. But the Indonesian intervention struck me as
ANYTHING but moral -- they don't even have the tissue of
respectability an elected government has when it acts in its own
interests. It was, as Lee Whitfield put it, just "might makes
right" arrogance. Hopefully, exploring that very issue will be in
the forefront of the series, and not swept under the rug.
1] If they look pathetic, he should look
at his own superficial comics coverage! Sure, a lot of these
attempts to change costume designs are foolish. The superhero genre
is not the same as the auto industry, where new designs can help
market the latest vehicles from Citroen, Toyota, Dodge and Nissan.
But just like the engine quality is the real draw for some cars, so
too is the characterization for comics casts, something Smith isn’t
very understanding of himself, no matter how much he pretends
2] Let’s hope someone who really cares about comics and doesn’t take
a PC stance comes along someday and makes better commentary than he
does. Though I suspect by that time, it’ll be way too late.
3] There’s a lot more he hasn’t noticed, like why a modicum of
morale pays better than his lack of it.
4] He’s missed a lot more, as the above arguments should make clear.
5] The homosexual kissing is not what matters, it’s whether he’s
willing to admit the bad influences of homosexuality that does. As
for sweeping under rugs, that’s just what he did when Identity
Crisis came along with its one-sided view of women, so he’s not
qualified to tell us about morality.
Dear Cap: 1) Amethyst was part of the mid-'80s (I
think) toy tie-ins. I remember several books based on toys.
Amethyst was based on a collection of girls' dolls, all named
after semi-precious stones. I'm really surprised she was
acknowledged at all in the DCU after the series fell out of
favor. Marvel did much better (relatively) with its toy-line
crossovers that I remember. I read Micronauts for a while and
thought they did a good job meshing characters created by toy
makers into interesting plotlines. I even seem to remember a
Micronauts/Avengers crossover at one point. ROM was a bit
cheesier, with its "man changed to cyborg for the great war with
the "Wraiths" which somehow brought him to Earth all the while
longing to be human again" plot (whew!). Both series outlived
their toy counterparts significantly (in toy-years, anyways).
2) As far as superheroes/mutants/metahumans killing in the
name of the greater good, I think it does reflect reality, but
most of the comics I've read haven't explored it as deeply as
I'd like to see. Things are better than the Golden Age, when use
of a superhuman power for personal gain (much less killing)
doomed to you to a career as a supervillain, but suddenly in the
'80s The Punisher went from villain to hero overnight and Dark
Knight Returns and Batman: Year One revamp established The Caped
Crusader as a true, "kill-if-I-have-to" vigilante (a stance DC
has since backed off of). Shouldn't we see more of the Boy
Scouts (Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man) actively seeking
out the more "hard-core" heroes? Hitman even got an interview to
join the JLA at one point (it lasted one panel) with a pitch of
"I'm telepathic, I've got X-ray vision, and I kill super-people
... for money(!)" Pursuit of the Punisher just stopped! I don't
need to see superhumans not kill people, just more realistic
moral conflict over it.
3) My contribution the native-born American thing: if you
are born abroad in a U.S. hospital (usually a military brat in a
military hospital thing), you are a native-born American (had a
buddy born in Greece this way). Unfortunately, this clears up
absolutely nothing about Storm's eligibility for the Presidency.
Do you get the feeling that this thread will live on infinitely,
like the whole religions of the superheroes thing?
4) Betty, for a very nasty corrupt-the-innocent-girl
fantasy; Lois, for a very nasty Taming-of-the-Shrew fantasy; MJ,
because Gwen's dead (even I have SOME morals). Will this get
edited for content?
Come to think of it, I was always attracted to She-Hulk
1) I was unaware that Amethyst was ever a toy -- as you note, it's
fascinating that she continues to be integrated into the DCU. And
I agree that Micronauts and ROM were surprisingly good, given
their origins -- not great, but certainly a cut above Captain
Action, G.I. Joe, etc.
2) The upcoming "Marvel Knights" non-team will have as its
non-purpose hunting down The Punisher, so maybe we're finally
catching up with reality. I've always had problems with characters
like Venom, Punisher, Deadpool, Deathstroke, et al, becoming
suddenly tolerated by the "Boy Scout" superheroes when their sales
reached a certain point. Murder is murder, and certainly Superman
and Spider-Man wouldn't tolerate it.
The Hitman thing must have sounded funny in the plotting session,
but I found it appalling and stupid. Ditto when Captain America
saluted The Punisher. Ditto Spider-Man making a
you-leave-me-alone-and-I'll-leave-you-alone deal with Venom.
Although I have to note for the record that Captain America was a
soldier in WWII, and certainly was directly responsible for the
deaths of hundreds of Axis soldiers. Shouldn't he be a little more
pragmatic and a little less prissy about death in combat? Just a
3) On Storm: See my answer to [withheld], above
4) <<Will this get edited for content?>> Nope. Just
because the corrupt-the-innocent-girl fantasy is too good to pass
As to She-Hulk, I should introduce you to [name withheld] (above).
You boys have a lot in common, including -- and I'm guessing here
-- a very, um, interesting fantasy life ...
Just like Mr. Smith, though for him, it’s
even more so! And not a good one, that’s for sure. Now onto the
1] What, he suddenly agrees Micronauts and ROM were good, if not
great? He swerves even faster than some lemmings in Britain!
2] And I’ve always had problems with PC advocates since the time
this was posted! Why, if Captain America ever killed nazis during
WW2, then why should it be out of place for him to salute Frank
3] And as for mine, it’s that he’s just not fit to make the
4] I find this subject annoying. Maybe it’s because corrupting has
long run its course of damage.
I was browsing the enormous store of Barnes &
Noble tonight and came across an awesome find! The Incredible
Internet Guide to Comic Books & Superheroes by James R.
Flowers is basically what the title says it is: thousands of web
sites! And the cool part that got me to buy it is they've thrown
in a DC and Marvel chronology in the back, listing superheroes
and villains with all their appearances. It lists Lois Lane but
not Lana Lang so not all characters of comics are listed
(someday there needs to be one). While I'm sure it isn't perfect
it's nice to have some type of reference on hand and at $14.95
I'll keep complaints to a minimum (I paid more than that for the
run of Avengers Forever).
You don't have to tell me, though -- The Captain's site isn't
With good reason, I’d figure. After he
went the PC route praising Identity Crisis, he doesn’t deserve it.
As for me, I’m not desperate to have any of my sites listed in a
book, because I’m not seeking fame at all costs. Which is what I
suspect he is, though as Andy Warhol said, everyone’s famous for 15
"Cheese and crackers! I'm alive?!" -- Patsy Walker,
in Thunderbolts 2000.
You've probably noticed this already, and been buried in
e-mail about it, but just in case it managed to slip by you
Hellcat is alive again. The Marvel Comics Revolving Door
to Hell still spins.
Of course, it's possible that she will die in Avengers
2000, thus saving you the trouble of changing The Book of the
Dead, but somehow that doesn't seem likely from where I sit.
(Sigh) I just keep imagining a talk-show format, something
like what Fred Hembeck had in Marvel Age, with the host
interviewing a writer.
<<Host: So what are your plans, now that you're
taking over this major title?
Writer: I'm going to wrap up the last plot threads in
about three to five issues, and then move into a story arc that
will really shake up the status quo.
H: Really? Can you give us any hints?
W: Well, it's going to involve an old character ...
Scream from offstage: Nooooo! Please don't make me go
back! I'M DEAD! I don't wanna live again!
W: ... although we've been having some contractual
problems, I feel confident that by the time we need him, we'll
have all of that ironed out.>>
But that's just me being cynical, I think.
LOL! And since Patsy committed suicide (in Hellstorm, and read by
approximately six people), that probably WOULD be her reaction!
The revolving door in the MCU’s gate to
hell might still spin, but then, so does the MSM still run spins
with the sloppiest reporting they can do. Even Mr. Smith. I suspect
even the correspondent thinks death in comics at all costs is
perfectly fine, and if he did, I'm disgusted.
Dear Cap: You wrote <<Luthor asked "Why do
I, the most brilliant mind in the world, surround myself with
imbeciles?" Good question, Lex. Having seen Deliverance, I'm
afraid I know the answer.>>
No real purpose for this e-mail to you other than to say you
made me laugh out loud at my desk with that one. They were,
after all, cellmates in prison, too. Those movies may now be
ruined for me. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Now if I can just get you to spit milk through your nose, my work
here will be done.
I wonder why Mr. Smith never asked himself
why he’s such an…okay, you get the idea. Now if only his editors
would ask themselves the same query about people like him, then we’d
be getting somewhere. Besides, it’s not so polite to spit, with milk
I sort of understand new generations of writers and
editors wanting to create their own characters, but I don't
understand why they have to ruin the originals in the process.
The writers who invented the Silver Age Green Lantern, Flash and
Atom didn't have to go back and destroy the original Golden Age
versions. Why is that necessary now? What was wrong with having
alternate Earths as venues for different generations of
superheroes? Maybe it was fear on the part of the current
writers that their versions wouldn't be as interesting compared
to the originals.
I actually enjoyed (Howard Chaykin's) earlier work. The
original Ironwolf was one of my favorite characters, but then
Chaykin "revised" him and turned him into a pitiful supporting
character. It made no sense to me at all. I can understand his
doing some wish fulfillment in his stories, but if that's all he
does then it becomes boring.
It IS getting a tad redundant, innit?
Anyway, I tend to agree with you about why today's writers trash
previous character incarnations -- they're giving THEIR characters
every edge. In Green Lantern's case, that was specifically the
case -- the brain trust in charge of revamping GL decided to
eliminate all former GLs (including Hal) to make sure that Kyle
was unique. Doesn't show much confidence, does it?
This correspondent echoes my thoughts near
exact. Now if he’s since come to realize Mr. Smith’s served as
apologist for those who shamelessly ruin the Silver Agers and their
co-stars in the process, then we’ll be getting somwhere! Besides,
Mr. Smith’s wrong: trashing the characters, major and minor, doesn’t
give THEIR casts every edge. It only reinforces the perception they
don’t have enough faith in audiences to accept the new folks, so
they force it all on them. And Mr. Smith’s double-talk doesn’t
inspire much confidence either, does it? Next comes April 27, 2000:
Dear Cap'n: On your recent web pages, reader [name
withheld] writes, and you respond:
<<Dear Cap: Early in the last century, newspaper
comics were popular. Then someone got the bright idea of
collecting comic strips into comic "books," and the monthly
comic-book periodical was born, and still exists, although the
price went from 10 cents to about three dollars. Now the
bookshelves are filled with slick reprint trade paperbacks
reprinting recent episodes of our favorite heroes. How long do
you think it will be before someone starts regularly publishing
these formats with original material? Is history repeating
itself? Are we seeing the birth of the standard comics format of
the new century? (I know, I know, the new century does not start
until NEXT Jan. 1.)>>
<<(Response) I'm no Nostradamus, but I can predict that a
storm is a-comin'. Standard economic theory suggests that the
32-page pamphlet will prove unprofitable within a decade, so
another format is inevitable. But what? Online, Internet comics?
Gigantic 100-Page Super-Spectaculars for five or more dollars,
mostly reprint? DC is having astonishing success with its policy
of keeping its TPBs in print -- and barging into the Internet and
brick-and-mortar bookstore market. Is that the future? Or do we go
the Japanese route? Or will the 32-pager stagger on through
inertia despite the naysayers? I dunno what's gonna happen, but it
WILL be interesting.>>
I agree that something is happening, and we're right in the
middle of it.
But what? I feel the same way as when I realized I took
the first "basic" computer programming class offered by my high
school just 15 years ago and now I'm trying to avoid dozens of
e-mails each day via the Internet -- that is to say, OUR WORLD
IS CHANGING REALLY, REALLY FAST.
It's exciting to see it unfold around us. And weird. I
stopped buying the Nightwing monthly comics three issues back
because I realized I've been collecting the trade paperback
collections anyway. I likewise discovered Authority through TPBs
and now have two of them on my bookshelf. My wife collected the
full Sandman run in TPB and continues to seek out the latest
collections of Strangers In Paradise.
It's obvious that DC understands the value of the adult
dollar and doesn't cater to children only. And in some sense,
it's a shame that Marvel management can't play the same game
Life is fun.
I dunno what's going to happen either. But TPBs seem like such a
natural for bookstores that I'm only marginally surprised to see
the chains in my backwater city carrying lots of them. (Mostly DCs
-- but that's because DC keeps 'em in print. No flies on them!) I
also suspect a larger format will prove necessary for direct
distribution (and possibly a return to newsstand sales), like the
old "Dollar Comics." But the 32-page format could surprise me and
hang in there. Sure looks shaky these days, though.
And, yes, life IS fun!
But propaganda and disrespect for the hard
work of vets like Gardner Fox isn’t. That aside, it’s pretty amusing
at this point how some leftists are going ga-ga over oh-so important
mishmash like The Authority (and even Strangers in Paradise, which
has some homosexual themes to boot, ditto Sandman), but what are the
chances they’d ever buy a comic, major or minor, with an emphasis on
being Armenian like Mannix? My guess is: statistically zero. And
while there are some works DC and Marvel keep in print, there’s also
quite a few items they either haven’t published in trades (much of
Chuck Dixon’s Robin run, to name but one example), and if they have,
they’ve let them go out of print since (some of Mark Waid’s run on
The Flash, to name another).
Oh, by the way, the correspondent was wrong even back then that DC
doesn’t cater to kids only. Today, it’s pretty apparent they don’t
cater to children at all. Yet they don’t understand the value of
grownup dollars either, or they’d hire more respectable writers and
editors. That’s something Marvel, ironically, is consistent on.
Dear Captain: I have not written as frequently as I
arguably should, but work has kept me on the go and away from my
PC more than I care to admit. Unfortunately, I come bearing bad
news. The series Ghost will be canceled as of issue 22. I got
this news from Comics Continuum. I just thought I would make you
Thanks for giving me a great read every week!
Thanks for the update, [...]! As soon as I can get confirmation
from Dark Horse -- which is akin to prying a dime from Scrooge
McDuck's grasp -- I'll add it to my Canceled Comics Cavalcade.
And, hey -- don't just write with bad news! Feel free to comment
Not a good idea; it only bolsters our J.
Jonah Jameson imitator. Sad if Ghost got canned, I suppose, but
happy if and when Scripps-Howard does the same with guess who’s
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<Thanks for all the Beetlemania, [name withheld]. What I
remember from Charlton's Beetle is that Ted felt guilty because he
was with Dan when he died on (I am not making this up) the island
of Pago Pago. He fell into a crevasse or had a wall fall on him or
somesuch in a cave-in. Anyway, that's why Ted didn't have the
scarab that bestowed superpowers. I've forgotten if DC included
any of this in their BB origin; I'll have to look it up>>
Actually, DC did keep that story as the origin of Ted Kord
post-Crisis. As noted, in the post-Crisis continuity, Dan
Garrett did return from Pago Pago, but unlike in the Americomics
story, he was possessed by evil, and died fighting Ted Kord
(this occurred in the first 25 issues of Blue Beetle, the 1980s
series). I should mention, by the way, that if the Americomics
story I alluded to had been considered as valid for the
pre-Crisis multiverse, then that would clear up a famous blunder
from Crisis on Infinite Earths 3. In that issue, Ted Kord had
the scarab! However, in the Who's Who entry for Ted Kord, it was
stated that he did not have the scarab.
Possibly what happened was that someone read the
Americomics story (as it was the Beetle's last appearance), in
which Dan Garrett returned and was still alive at the end of the
story, and decided that Ted Kord would have the scarab from now
on (possibly, after the Crisis had been finished, there would
have been time to explain that Dan Garrett had decided to retire
and pass on the scarab). However, decisions about the fate of
the Charlton characters were going back and forth (Watchmen,
after all), so that idea may have been scrapped. Dick Giordiano
played a big role in the Charlton acquistion, so his whims and
decisions would have been a big factor.
I haven't noticed any of the Americomics developments in the DC
versions of Blue Beetle, which I assume is because of
copyright/trademark protection as much as an aesthetic choice. As
to Giordano, he was a mover and shaker in the recent L.A.W. series
that attempted to re-position the Charlton characters for the
umpteenth time for their own series, but I sure didn't care much
for the execution. Had a real retro feel -- not always a good
thing -- and I could've have lived without reading it.
After all these years, I’ve concluded I
could’ve lived without reading Mr. Smith’s garbage, and feel sorry
for a lot of other people who made the same mistake! Besides, when
did he ever speak out publicly in his column about the misuse of Ted
Kord in Countdown to Infinite Crisis? Not to my knowledge he didn’t.
Hey Captain: Check this site out, I thought you and
my fellow readers would get a kick out of it. This guy has a lot
of free time, using digital manipulation (not sure what to call
it), he has taken pictures of models and dressed them up (?!) as
superheroines. Try not to drool on your monitor.
What it looks like, [...], is that the folks at Digital Harbour
took old skin mag photos and airbrushed costumes on them, or used
Adobe PhotoShop (or some similar software) to achieve the same
It's very similar to what another site has done, called
"Superheroines of the Silver Age"
Since the original photographs at the latter site are taken from
'60s Playboy magazines, they're pretty tame by modern standards.
However, since the purpose is to arouse as well as to entertain, I
must say: NO MINORS ALLOWED. There. Now, having covered my legal
hiney, I recommend the sites to adults, who will get a chuckle or
Say, this reminds me: did he ever make
that note when Identity Crisis was being foisted on the public?
Indeed, I don’t think he ever did. He certainly didn’t urge parents
to keep minors away from such a vile monstrosity in his column, let
alone warn them that the viewpoint there is almost exclusively male.
I'm a subcriber to Entertainment Weekly (so I can
keep up on non-comic trivia) and noticed in my latest edition
(April 21, with Natalie Portman on the cover) that a comic book
was reviewed in the book-review section (surprisingly named
Books). Relative Heroes is the name of it, it's published by DC
and the reviewer used the term "Party of Five meets The X-Men."
Didn't know if you knew and wondered if you knew if this was
going to be a regular feature.
I dunno if the EW feature will be regular -- they don't consult
me, alas -- but I can tell you about Relative Heroes. It's a
six-issue miniseries by Devin Grayson and Yvel Guichet that
features five "siblings" with superpowers who are suddenly
orphaned. Their "leader," the oldest boy, decides they've had an
origin, and the rest of the series is their road trip to
Metropolis to ask Superman for superhero training. It's
characterization-heavy and fisticuffs-light, and I think the EW
quote is pretty accurate.
Maybe not, since they’ve been owned by
Time Warner, one of the most pretentious conglomerates around, and
despite any claims to the contrary, Mr. Smith hasn’t been
particularly prone to criticizing the establishment. EW has
occasionally reviewed comics since, but whatever they’ve had to say
is hardly what I’d call honest or objective by any stretch.
While I always love your column, I must point out a
slight error in your recent article. You have Wonder Woman
invoke both Athena and Minerva. They are the same person;
Minerva is the Roman name for Athena. Since Diana is Greek, she
should only refer to Athena. Sorry about this, but it always
bugs me when people mix up the Greek and Roman names.
You're right, of course -- I must have left my brain in my other
suit. I should have evoked Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite and
eschewed Diana, Minerva and Venus. Once upon a time WW's writers
mixed Roman and Greek terminology promiscuously, but she's been
all Greek (except, oddly, for her OWN name) since the Perez
revamp. (Remember when she used to shout "Mercival Minerva" at the
drop of a hat?)
Anyway, I DID know better, and just slipped up. I promise on a
copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology never to do it again.
No, he did not know better, and
that goes without saying when it comes to true dedication, morale
and objectivity. And truly, since when did he ever have a brain?
Dear Cap'n: Loved your treatment of the debate
between the DC "trinity" in your latest column. It had me
It's been at least four years since I've bought a comic
book because of various expenses (house mortgage, car repairs,
etc.) and perhaps even trying to "grow up" from the need to read
them since I got married. I've been reading your columns to keep
up with some of the happenings in the comics world.
I must admit that Lee's take on DC's heroes will probably
have me headed to the comics store to buy it. That's saying
something. Never thought I'd see the day that Stan would be
writing for DC. I know I'm not alone in that. What a coup!
I'm trying to keep my expectations low, as I doubt even Stan The
Man can't re-invent the wheel -- well, at least not TWICE! But as
you said: What a coup! I just have to see his name in the credits
on a DC book -- simultaneously with "Stan Lee Presents!" on every
Marvel book on the stands! Too weird!
Funny Smith says that. Because he couldn’t
write his way out of the proverbial wet paper bag.
Hey Cap: Just catching up on some topics.
First, you recently mentioned that DC now considers the
Batman-Talia love child story to have occurred out of
continuity. Unrelated at the time, you also mentioned that you
like to re-read your old Silver Age comics and pretend that
there still is an Earth-Two. It strikes me that we all have our
own personal continuity. Most of us have stories that we
consider to be non-canonical and others that we consider to be
As for me, Franklin Richards was never kidnapped by his
grandfather and returned to the present as a teenager. Quite
frankly, the entire run of Fantastic Force never happened in my
world. I was wondering: What other stories never happened in
your personal continuity? And which stories, long since wiped
from continuity by Crisis, Zero Hour, and other revamps, still
inform your own world of comics?
Next, I know you like to rip on Wizard but I usually buy
it and enjoy it. Especially of late, they have exceeded my
expectations. For nearly a year, I've been trying to compile a
complete list of "Work by George Perez" so that I can fill out
my collection (I even have most of his work on I*Bots and the
Ultraverse titles). Wizard actually published the definitive
list (approved by George) and helped me out.
They also pulled one over on me with their April Fool's
joke. With the help of Alex Ross, they convinced me that Ross,
Paul Dini and DC had canceled this year's Captain Marvel special
edition for a Wonder Twins volume. Having been raised on Super
Friends, I was even excited to see Ross's Wonder Twin art. I
have to give them a lot of credit for a great scam (Now if only
they'd figure out what crap Earth X is and stop giving it their
project of the year awards).
Finally, I am a huge Titans fan. One of the biggest. As a
25-year-old myself, they are the characters I identify with the
most. I loved Devin Grayson's Nightwing annual and I even have
the poster for the JLA-Titans miniseries hanging in my living
room. I couldn't believe that I was going to be so lucky as to
have such a talented writer scripting the stories of my
favourite heroes. I even liked her use of Argent and Damage and
And yet, I have not enjoyed this series for a couple of
issues. It's not just that I don't like to see the Titans
feuding with each other, it's that I didn't believe they would
let it get this far. I know that my favourite heroes don't
always get along but this feud was established without much
warrant or warning. Maybe Devin needs to read how Marv Wolfman
pulled the team apart and put them back together, particularly
New Teen Titans 19 in which Donna punches Dick in the face.
Of course, for all of that, I also didn't buy her quick
resolution to the problem. Their natural anger was provoked by
the Gargoyle? Now that they've neutralized the Gargoyle, most of
the problems are over? The thing is, I know Devin Grayson can do
better. The scene in JLA-Titans in which everyone tries to coax
the humanity out of Cyborg, until Changeling yells "Hey,
Rustbucket," and gives Vic what-for is one of my favourites. The
characters were real to me then. So why aren't they real to me
I have similar complaints about JSA. I expected, hoped and
longed for better. It's not a family. It's a club in which
everyone seems to be able to come and go as they please. They've
changed my mind about Sand (I was convinced that I would hate
him) and "Sins of Youth" made me a Starwoman (I mean,
Star-Spangled Kid) fan, but so far, I'm extremely underwhelmed.
We still don't know anything about Kendra (Hawkgirl) or the new
Dr. Mid-Nite and they haven't really used the Hector Hall/Dr.
Fate since the resurrection story. Although I really enjoyed the
Wildcat story, I'm hoping that this title picks up before I'm
forced to drop it.
Like most folks, the comics I loved the best are the ones I read
first, so in a general sense just about everything that's happened
since 1970 I take with a grain of salt. But here are some generic
things that I try to ignore:
-- The Spider-Man Clone Saga (especially the Gwen Stacy clone)
-- 2099 anything
-- The "New Universe"
-- Young All-Stars (and a LOT of Infinity Inc.)
-- Team Titans
-- The Outsiders
-- Earth X
-- Captain America saluting The Punisher (I don't remember the
-- The Punisher as head of a crime family
-- The Punisher as an angel
-- Spider-Man cutting a deal with Venom to leave each other alone
-- The Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern quitting the fight in
Zero Hour just after three of their comrades had been murdered
-- Jared Stevens as Fate
-- Hal Jordan as a drunk lunatic BEFORE "Emerald Twilight"
-- The troubled, suicidal Plastic Man in Brave & Bold
-- Sgt. Rock outliving WWII in Brave & Bold
-- Any story where Batman appears in daylight
-- Any story with Storm in a mohawk
-- Any line of dialogue where somebody addresses somebody as "old
-- Any story where characters like Venom, Punisher or Deathstroke
are tolerated by the heroes because their sales figures are high
Whew! There are lots more, but we've more topics:
I just rip on Wizard because they're immature. But they do some
things right. If the Perez thing worked, then good for them and
good for you.
I enjoyed the '60s Teen Titans solely based on Nick Cardy's art;
the stories were horrendous (I need only mention The Mad Mod, I
think). I think Cardy's Wonder Girl was the second comic-book girl
I fantasized about (the first being Betty Cooper). The third would
probably be Cardy's Black Canary (in Brave & Bold). Man, that
guy could draw gorgeous women!
I loved the Wolfman/Perez Titans from the early '80s -- they don't
hold up too well on re-reading, but they were dynamite at the
I absolutely loathed the Team Titans era. You could almost hear
the editorial meeting that dreamed it up: "Hey! Marvel's X-Men
sales are through the roof! Don't we have a teen-team book that we
could turn into a franchise?" It almost turned me off Titans
Then there was the Jurgens period. Risk, Joto, whoever they were
-- what a bunch of losers. It was like the guys in high school who
skipped class to smoke dope in the parking lot had been given
superpowers. I didn't want to read about them.
But finally, Devin Grayson & Co. realized the unique aspect of
the series: Five ex-sidekicks who've been palling around forever.
That's something no other team has. But, like you, I feel like the
last few issues the wheels have come off.
I'm with you on the JSA -- I've enjoyed the characters they've
explored, but there's a tremendous wealth of material they're
simply not tapping. And the team doesn't feel like a team -- each
issue seems to feature whoever happened to be free that month.
Grant Morrison finally made the JLA work by giving the Big Seven
specific relationships with each other that gave them a gestalt --
and the reader an almost subliminal understanding of why these
guys hang out with each other. Johns needs to do the same for JSA.
Wow, that dumb correspondent loves Wizard?
Ugh! Not only were they such a knee-jerk, establishment-kissing
magazine, they also had articles and letter pages laced with sexism.
They gave comics journalism a bad name even before Mr. Smith made
his way onto the scene and employed a more subtle approach, not
unlike Bethany Snow. I guess I can understand why he’s otherwise
unfair to the NTT. And shame on him for putting down the Silver Age
origins of the Titans, all because they began at a time when goofy
slapstick was in use.
And shame on him also for the disrespect he has for Roy and Dann
Thomas’s hard work to create Infinity Inc. Sure, some of the
costumes are goofy, and some of the names could be the same, but
overall, it was a decent title and today there are people who admire
it in retrospect. Incidentally, what is the material he felt Johns
wasn’t tapping in JSA? I seriously doubt he’d feel it should include
the battle against evil belief systems like Islamofascism and bad
leftist university managements like what we have today at
Brandeis. Nor is he likely to feel that Armenians deserve to have a
spot in superhero comics, as superheroes or as co-stars.
In Superman's origin page (from Action 1?), it's
clearly established that his parents are dead. In one panel, his
dying human father makes him promise to use his powers to help
people, and then there's a shot of him grieving over two
George S. Lowther is generally credited for naming them,
in his 1941 novel, The Adventures of Superman. There they are
Eben and Sarah, but as you point out, they were later variously
named John and Mary and Martha and Jonathan, depending on the
I've never seen that origin episode of the Reeves series,
darn it, and I forgot to tape it when the TVLand marathon
It was one of the better ones, if you overlook the "Mole Men"
looking a lot like Munchkins (and played by many of the same
actors). The first season of Adventures of Superman was played
straight, but by the second season it was veering toward camp.
And with your help, I found the scene of Clark standing over his
parents' graves. It was actually in Action Comics 2, and reprinted
in Superman 1. I knew I had the idea that they were dead, but I
couldn't remember why I thought that, and when Action 1 proved no
help, I was at a loss. Thanks!
The Adventures of Superman may have veered
towards campiness, but these days, Mr. Smith’s columns veer towards
being an unfunny joke.
<< GRENDEL: DEVIL'S LEGACY #2 (Of 12): I guess I'm the only
guy on the planet who never liked Grendel.>>
Nope. You're one of two. I've never read any Grendel story.
<<Weird -- I usually like anything PAD writes, from Star
Trek to his busman's holiday, Soulsearchers & Co.>>
I dropped SpyBoy months ago even though I normally worship at
LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #29: I bought this story
because it's Mr. Kane's last work. It was a good story and the
layouts were great. It's just a shame that the inks didn't mesh
with the pencils.
<<Read some history, kids. Learn how and why ships are
Any suggestions for books about this? I'm kinda curious myself.
As far as I can tell, U.S. warships tend to be named after A)
places (i.e. USS Oregon --BB3), B) people associated with
military history, or C) previous ships.
<<DAREDEVIL #12: Geez, the last one was out only three weeks
ago! I guess they're serious about getting this title back on
Yeah, but this one is a fill-in issue. It's good, but $2.99 is
a steep price to pay for a fill-in.
QUANTUM & WOODY #21: I bought it and loved it, but am
not sure I should keep buying it. Sure, it is my No. 1 favorite
comic book. The problem is its chronic lateness; I feel bad
about supporting a book/publisher (Unity 2000 is also waaaay
behind schedule) that yanks the chains of its fans.
<<And I agree that Micronauts and ROM were surprisingly
good, given their origins -- not great, but certainly a cut above
Captain Action, G.I. Joe, etc.>>
I'm a little surprised about your comments on Marvel's G.I.
Joe. This title was really, really good from issue 21 (the
famous "Silent Interlude" story) through around issue 50 (where
they seemingly had to start doing more promotion for the toys).
Like Howard the Duck, G.I. Joe back issues were once a hot
commodity but have since greatly cooled.
WOW! The letters section became so big that you had to use
<<Alternate universes: Again, why not? All things are
possible in an infinite universe.>>
This is the one answer to [name withheld]'s questionnaire where
your answer differed greatly from mine. I DON'T believe in
alternate universes. Simply put, any me in an alternate universe
would have had exactly the same experiences and therefore make
exactly the same decisions that I do. Parallel universes? Maybe.
Alternate? No way.
LEGENDS: I don't have any problem with the inking, but I'd bet Gil
Kane would've. Kane was very particular about who inked him, to
the point that he left DC in a huff in the '60s because they kept
assigning Sid Greene to Green Lantern and Atom. He even taught
himself to ink so he could ink his own pencilled pages and see his
work the way he wanted it to be seen. So it's a sad coda to his
career that the company did it to him AGAIN.
SHIP NAMES: There's a whole protocol for it, just like everything
in the military. Aircraft carriers are named after presidents
(with a few exceptions, all for good reasons), battleships are
named after states, cruisers after admirals, frigates after
cities, etc. The same is true of aircraft designations (B is for
bomber, F is for fighter, X is for experimental plane, etc.). In
the Civil War, the North named its armies and battles after the
nearest body of water (Battle of Bull Run) whereas the South named
theirs after the closest landmark (Battle of Manassas). (Oddly,
both ended up with an Army of Tennessee -- one after the state,
the other the river). I've simply picked this stuff up from
watching The History Channel and reading a book or two; it just
turns me off instantly when I read a story where the writer has
paid less attention to life than I have.
G.I. JOE: You're right -- G.I. Joe was pretty good. I should have
used another toy-to-bad comic example, like Hot Wheels.
That’s pretty rich coming from someone who
had a problem with one of Kane’s creations, Jean Loring. I may have
said it before, and it certainly deserves repeating: Smith
disrespected Kane by legitimizing Identity Crisis.
Also, I suspect “diplomacy” is what Mr. Smith was going by with GI
Joe, though I’ve got a hunch the correspondent isn’t as big a fan of
the Joes as he might want us to think either.
Hi, Cap! I was wondering if you have been following
the new Punisher series by Garth Ennis and what is your take on
it? I have found it engaging even though I share your distaste
for vigilante, gun-toting anti-heroes. But there is one problem
I have with the latest issue (No. 3). This is the issue that
guest stars Daredevil. Without giving too much away to those who
haven't read the comic, it deals with Daredevil attempting to
stop the Punisher from assassinating a criminal. My problem is
that Ennis seems to "wimpify" superheroes like DD in order to
show Punisher as this unbeatable bad boy. I first saw Ennis do
this in the Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe story. I know
that some of the heroes' abilities must be downplayed to make
the story interesting, but Ennis carries this to the extreme.
Basically, DD wouldn't wimp out against the Punisher. DD has
mopped the floor with vicious gun-toting creeps in the past.
(SPOILER) If you read the comic then you will know that
Punisher has put Daredevil in a position where he must shoot
Punisher or let the Punisher kill a man. DD holds out firing on
Punisher until the last possible minute (when DD feels he has no
other option), at which point he discovers the bullet is loaded
with blanks. My gripe with this is that DD thought he had to
shoot to kill in order to stop Punisher. I allege that DD would
be smart enough to realize that he could've maimed Punisher and
still have stopped the assassination (if the gun had really been
loaded). Of course, the gun wasn't loaded, but it still made DD
look stupid. Maybe that was Ennis's point, since he dislikes
I was checking out the message boards and came across a
post in which John Byrne claims to have came up with the idea
for the new Batgirl (i.e., a young, teenage Asian girl) some
time ago. He wrote that DC rejected his idea at the time. What
do you think? Did DC steal Byrne's idea or is he just trying to
take credit for something he didn't do?
<<I'm not all that certain about the status of Superman's
parents in the Golden Age, but I always presumed they were
Yep, they're dead. I remember seeing reprints of Superman's
expanded Golen Age origin (Superman 1, I think) which show a
grown Clark standing over his adopted parents' grave.
<<As to the variance in names, Clark's parents weren't
really seriously established until the Superboy title in 1949. Not
only were they not always Jonathan and Martha in the comics --
their names varied here and there -- but they were (as you noted)
Eb and Sarah on the TV show and John and Mary on the Adventures of
Superman radio show. God knows what they were on Broadway!>>
Believe it or not, I have a video of the 1970s televised
version of the Broadway play, It's a Bird, It's A Plane, It's
Superman! It features a small recap of Superman's origins that
is pretty faithful, if camped up, to the comics. I don't recall
any mention of the parents' first names and I fear that I am not
strong enough to endure another viewing just yet. I own the
video because it is a part of Superman's history, but, man, is
it awful! Some of the songs are listenable, though! I have the
soundtrack on LP for the original stage version, as well. David
Cassidy's dad plays the villain and Linda (Alice) Lavin plays
the bad girl (played on the TV version by Loretta Switt of
M.A.S.H. fame). Egads! The things I endure for my hobby!
No kidding. I actually read all the "New Universe" titles. The
things we do ...
PUNISHER: I'm enthusiastic about the new Punisher series, because
it's well-done, and it doesn't treat Frank Castle as a hero. I can
enjoy anti-hero books, as long as there are real-world
consequences for their antisocial acts,or, at the very least,
recognition that their behavior is not admirable. (One reason I
was glad to see Catwoman finally arrested, even if the story was
And, yup, I agree -- DD was made out out be an idiot. Didn't care
much for it. On the other hand, isn't it a tradition in superhero
matchups that the guy whose title it is always wins?
BYRNE'S BAT: I don't have any inside information, but I'm
skeptical of Byrne's claim. Byrne may have actually suggested an
Asian Batgirl -- who knows? But he is not developing this
character, so that's not enough to claim ownership. Ideas are
cheap, and there really aren't any new ones. Besides, given
Byrne's ego, I'd bet he'd take credit for Genesis because he wrote
a story with the same name.
SUPERMAN'S PARENTS: See my answer to [name withheld], above.
Man, what a shame the correspondent could be as leftist as Smith
is, and so dismissive of the Punisher, possibly for all the wrong
reasons. As for Catwoman, wouldn’t he rather she reform for real?
(If memory serves, she did during the late 70s-early 80s, but in
1986, Dr. Moon messed with her mind and caused her to revert.)
Dear Cap: Concerning [name withheld] inquiry ... about how Batman
gets all that stuff into the (Bat)cave, here's a theory. It's
unsubstantiated by evidence, but not contradicted by any either,
as far as I know. (In other words, this is the kind of
seat-of-the-pants explanation Marvel used to dole out No-Prizes
Here goes. Batman depends on the kindness of fellow heroes when it
comes time to move gear into his quarters. He uses some
combination of the following to get stuff in:
JLA transporter. Beam stuff in. Beam stuff out. Beam stuff just a
few inches to the left ...
Kryptonian technology. Use Superman's Phantom Zone projector to
park that Bat-electron microsocope in the Phantom Zone, then
project it back in the cave. Or use the ray that shrank the Bottle
City of Kandor to reduce that Bat-cyclotron down to pocket size
and "blow it up" in the cave. If these Silver Age technologies no
longer exist in current DC continuity, well, I know we can still
count on ...
Green Lantern's power ring: Giant emerald fingers lift the
Bat-centrifuge, cradle it lovingly, and gently nudge it into
Zatanna's magic: 'Nuff said.
Atom's dwarf-star mass-displacement tricks: Works like the Kandor
reducing ray, at least on stuff Atom is holding when he gets
small. Useful for carrying explosives or chemicals that might
attract FBI dogs ...
Martian Manhunter's alien technology: It only LOOKS like magic.
And it might as well be.
It always helps to have lots of friends on moving day <g>.
As to the Batcave's drain on the Gotham power grid, I always
figured there had to be a generator somewhere back behind the
giant penny -- some kind of nuclear plant with huge capacity.
Or maybe he just draws power off of potatoes, in the manner of
those nifty clocks that used to be advertised in the back of comic
Of course, somebody's gonna point out that Batman's too much of a
loner to ask his friends for help, and besides, he probably
wouldn't provide beer ...
And he's mentioned his generators before. I'm no expert by any
means, but if you have electricity, don't you have to be hooked up
to the grid in some capacity? Those generators don't start
themselves. And what about satellite hookup? Wouldn't he need a
dish? And how does he get phone service? Doubtless there are all
sorts of ways to get around these things, but he'd have to be
doing a LOT of sleight-of-hand ... it starts to stretch credulity
after a while.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, [withheld]!
Hope that correspondent’s since realized
what contempt Smith has for the Atom. 'Cause what he speaks about
here is insulting.
Dear Cap: Has anyone else noticed something odd about
the things that our heroes are saying? We recently learned that
the federal government funded the anti-drug comic that Marvel
placed in the middle of their books for seeming eternity. I had
thought that was the end of the plot, but recent peculiarities
give me pause. First, in Daredevil 11, Matt Murdock entertains
thoughts about how great it is that Echo doesn't smoke. Bizarre,
but isolated. But then, in the latest issue of Adventures of
Superman, Supercrank feels compelled to tell Jimmy -- who had
remarked approvingly upon the villain's cigar-chomping -- that
"cigars cause cancer"!
As the adage goes, Where there's smoke, there's fire. I
can only believe that the government propaganda machine is still
bedeviling our books. I would ask you and your readers to report
similar weirdnesses. We can only hope that Christopher Priest
saves the day (as usual) by teaming Deadpool with Captain
You know, I used to think I was paranoid that
anti-drinking, or anti-tobacco, or anti-whatever would pop out
of characters' mouths on TV -- until I found out that the
producers were, indeed, being paid by the government to have
those things said and taking the money under the table. Good
So I've always found it refreshing that comics would do
their bluenose routine with "Paid Advertisement" or "Public
Service Announcement" pasted all over that "Just Say No!" ad.
But now I'm not so sure ...
Your request is posted, [withheld]! All Cap'n Comics readers are
hereby deputized to report all suspicious propaganda in comics!
And, say, when WAS the last time we saw Wolverine with a cigar ...
Is there something wrong with the
government asking a favor from the showbiz mediums? Not always,
depending how sincere their motivations are (the Obama
administration sure isn’t doing a good job asking favors from
anyone, that’s for sure). During WW2, the government had the
audacity to ask for help from Hollywood. Since we’re on the topic,
how do we know the producers were acting as government drones in all
instances? Does he realize what he’s suggesting? That it wasn’t
sincerity that drove anybody? Good grief.
And gee, that’s rich to ask his readers to report propaganda even as
he keeps specializing in the gimmick himself. Guess that’s why I
decided – completely free of charge – to play Spider-Man to his J.
Jonah Jameson. That’s right, I’m not getting paid to be a blogger as
I am today, and for anybody who truly cares about the future of the
medium, that’s why I do the work I do today, and I’m not asking
anyone to thank me for it either, because it’s all I can do to
provide you with the best possible criteria you need in order to
know why mainstream journalists cannot be relied upon to give you an
honest, objective picture of the industry.
Dear Captain: I have only one question: Is Wonder
Woman Archives Vol. 1 as good/bizarre as Vol. 2 sounds?
Oh, absolutely! The second one is where it really hit its stride,
But for Mr. Smith, there’s only lows, both
bad and horrific.
<<And what I find difficult about the Indonesian
intervention is that I always assumed that The Authority's
authority was MORAL authority -- the need to do the right thing,
regardless of official protocol. But the Indonesian intervention
struck me as ANYTHING but moral -- they don't even have the tissue
of respectability an elected government has when it acts in its
own interests. It was, as Lee Whitfield put it, just "might makes
right" arrogance. Hopefully, exploring that very issue will be in
the forefront of the series, and not swept under the rug.>>
Capn, I know you don't frequent the DC Message Boards, but you
should really consider spending a little time in The Authority
forum. We posters there are REALLY into discussing these very
kinds of issues that The Authority raises, on several threads.
And Millar is one of us sometimes. I think you'd find what he
has to say on about all this heartening. I know it revs me. I
think you are getting at the core of what I believe the whole
book is about -- and always has been, really.
<<[withheld] buys both Buffy and Angel (photo covers, of
course). Of the two, I enjoy the Angel comic book more -- much,
much more. That's in contrast to the shows, of which I prefer
While I don't read either books -- what I've seen of the
features in DHP hasn't moved me very much, for one thing -- I do
love Buffy on TV; even though it's not quite up to the standard
of genuine excellence that last season set, it's probably my
favorite program now (Used to be Voyager, before Kes was
banished and Seven of Two walked in and took everything over
...). Angel, on the other hand, I cannot even watch. I gave up
after a handful of episodes. It's so boring and poorly-to-okayly
done. In the end I think the responsibility lies with Angel
himself; David B. Boreanaz is a decent actor, and he helped make
Angel a great ensemble character on Buffy -- he and Geller had
real chemistry, as did their characters. But Angel ain't much of
a lead character, and David B. ain't got it in him to make him
one, in my eyes.
This project looks like it could be really fun. Lots of indie
flicks come out bad, sure. But, frankly, I think Hollywood
churns out more vomit than independent cinema could ever hope
to. I'll take a little nobody with an idea or feel for the
subject matter and five bucks over a studio product almost any
day. I liked Mystery Men well enough – it was fun. But there
sure wasn't much there, it didn't come together very well or add
up to much. We'll see what this filmmaker comes up with.
I'm especially pleased to see that John Doe is in it!
Wonderful actor, wonderful musicmaker -- he's worked on his own
projects and as a member of X -- and he's also one of my six
film-actor husbands! (Sure, he don't know that yet, and neither
do any of the other five, but I find this to be a very minor
detail that I don't let get in my way ...) So I'm always happy
to see him pop up in a film, and now a comic book-themed one, to
Climbing back out of my head, we find The Ring of the
Nibelung 3 (Dark Horse, $2.95), the best limited series on the
So nice to see another plug for this magnificent,
beautiful book on your site. I think you should make your site
accessible only to those who can prove they've picked this
miniseries up, actually ...
Then my hit count would drop to six a week, unfortunately. Anyway,
thanks for the comments and recommendations, [withheld]!
So that correspondent wasted his time on
the Wildstorm section for that comic in the erstwhile DC boards?
Sad. At least I don’t have to make the same mistake, and didn’t. But
a pity I did make the mistake to give Mr. Smith counts on his
website statistics. If I hadn't, he'd be down at least by a few
Dear Captain Comics: I been waiting on (Shock
Rockets) since the announcement of the Gorilla partners (Busiek
and Perez are my favorite in the comic world) print. The book
was excellent (and) it was a joy to behold. I was glad it was
not another superhero book; we need something different in the
comic market and this is a start. This book is for the young,
old and new. The art is awesome. Grawbadger's inking is perfect
for Immonen art. What can I say about Kurt Busiek that I have
not said already? I think he is the best superhero storyteller
today. What separates him from others is his ability to create
character and drama. Astro City is an example of great stories,
characterization (and) drama. He is also so detailed in his
writing. With high prices on comics today I have to choose
wisely but for some reason I can never go wrong with a Kurt
Busiek comic. Hope you review this book in your Sunday article.
Thank you for listening.
Unfortunately, I order some of my books through a monthly service
(The Westfield Co.) and won't receive Shock Rockets for another
week. But I am looking forward to it.
While Busiek did turn out impressive tales once, he’s since proven
himself one of the worst political commentators today, which is
very sad, because I do concur Astro City is one of the best books
on the market.
The Black Terror, another character from a defunct publisher,
appeared in an an Eclipse miniseries in the late 1980s/early
1990s. Presumably Todd McFarlane may now own the rights -- as he
probably now owns the rights to Airboy and the Heap.
A question: Does anyone know of a one-shot starring Nick Fury and
the Black Widow that Nightraven appeared in? Nightraven was a
Marvel UK character, and his relation to the mainstream North
American characters is unclear.
I don't know for a fact that McFarlane owns any of those
characters -- the Eclipse bankruptcy and divvying up of assets
was, by all reports, pretty complicated. I guess we'll all find
out if he publishes one of them (although he seems to be moving
out of comics).
The Eclipse series you remember was, appropriately, The Black
Terror 1-3 (1990), and it was by Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith
(writers) and Dan Brereton (artist).
Nightraven/Fury/Widow doesn't ring any bells with me -- it might
have been a Marvel UK title. There was a Nightraven: The Collected
Stories TPB published in America in 1991, but I never saw it.
Anybody else know?
Since we’re on the issue of Dixon, I don’t
recall Mr. Smith publicly criticizing Dan DiDio in his columns for
firing Dixon abruptly either in 2009.
Dear Cap: One can never say "die" and that is so
true. The Uncanny X-Men was canceled and later revived and has
gone on to becoming one of the best-selling titles in the
industry. The Naked Gun series lasted only for six episodes but
exhibited commercial success as movies. I believe that there are
some series that could probably make a comeback. There are a lot
of fine titles that I have enjoyed and would not mind reading
new stories. However, if I do not see any new series of old but
still enjoyable titles, at least I have old issues to enjoy and
Here are few titles that I would like to mention: The
Sleeze Brothers (Epic comics), Bizarre Adventures (Marvel
Magazine Group), The Savage Sword of Conan (Marvel Magazine
Group), Howard The Duck (Marvel Magazine Group), The Brave &
Bold (the team-ups and the dream-ups starring well,
you-know-who), DC Comics Presents, Archie's Superhero Special
digest (Archie Comics), Captain Hero digest starring Jughead
Jones (Archie Comics), Superman Family (DC comics), Batman
Family (DC Comics), The Vengeance Squad (Charlton), Iron Fist
(Marvel Comics) and Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids (Gold Key)
to name a few.
Are there any titles that you would like to see revived?
If so, then what are they?
The list of books I'd like to see again is longer than I've room
for here, LL, although it would start with the Drake/Premiani Doom
Patrol and the Isabella/Newell Black Lightning. Anybody else got a
Sure, I’ve got plenty, like the Silver Age
Atom, and I’d sure like to see Elongated Man get another miniseries
like he had in 1992 by Gerard Jones. The Outsiders per Mike W.
Barr’s vision. Why, there’s even Infinity Inc, as per the
characterizations Roy and Dann Thomas worked on! But don’t think
he’d ever promote them, no siree. Thank goodness there’ll always be
the older stuff to enjoy, that I agree with.
Regarding the Naked Gun movies, it’s my dreary duty to note that
O.J. Simpson put a whole dark cloud over them after he murdered his
wife Nicole and another boyfriend of hers in 1994, and it sadly took
a decade to get him into jail for real.
Let’s let that go now, and proceed to May 4, 2000, where he got some
wrong info recorded, but even though he admitted it was erroneous,
that’s still not excusing certain other things:
OK, OK -- JIM APARO IS NOT DEAD! When the Captain makes
a mistake, it's a humdinger:
Dear Cap: Jim Aparo dead? Are you SURE about this??? If this is
true this is upsetting me TO NO END. ... I want a date when this
happened. This is bigger to me than losing Gil Kane, Curt Swan
or even Bob Kane -- Aparo was "Batman" in my very young days.
I'm not mourning until I know for sure, and I REALLY don't
What??? When did this happen? Why wasn't I told??? He had
work appear in the Bat-books within the last year didn't he???
Aw, Cap'n, I'm just startin' to get over Gil Kane.
I grew up to Jim Aparo art! I fell in love with his
Aquaman in Adventure Comics in the '70s!!! Oh, god. This is
horrible. ... Why don't I know about this???
Dear Cap: I was just was going through your Q&A page
and saw the rather terse statement "Jim Aparo is dead." Is this
true? I read your column every week and also get The Comics
Buyers' Guide and have not seen this item. And since Jim Aparo
has done a cover for DC's Silver Age books, if this statement is
true it has to be a recent event. Jim Aparo was the major artist
on the Batman titles for much of the 1980s ,and was one of the
few artists at that time that penciled, inked and even lettered
his own work. It was only at the end of his run on Batman and
the few fill-ins he later did that other inkers worked on his
pencils, not even coming close to his own standards. I don't
know but if someone is asking a question about the whereabouts
of an artist or writer that is no longer visible, a short "He's
dead" just doesn't sound right.
(Sigh). No, Jim Aparo's fine. But I'm an idiot.
Aparo is still alive (if semi-retired), and in fact is doing the
cover for Silver Age: Brave & Bold (appropriately), shipping
May 24. I was thinking of someone else -- possibly Don Newton,
who, like Aparo, is a former Charlton artist who "graduated" from
Charlton's The Phantom to DC's Batman titles.
Boy, when I goof, I goof BIG! Sorry, everybody. But speaking of
Before we get to the next about other news
that’s probably more accurate, let us note how shameful it is he’s
not willing to admit it for real – he’s never said he’s sorry for
fawning over Identity Crisis, nor for speaking so insultingly and
dishonestly about Jean Loring, whom I’m sure he knows is fictional.
Nor has he ever shown any signs he ever cared about Sue Dibny, for
that matter. Are we to assume he dislikes specific characters that
badly, he’s willing to sacrifice others if that’s what it takes to
harm them so terribly? Simply disgusting.
Hello, Cap! I was reading posts on the AOL comic
boards again and I came across this post by John Byrne
concerning Dick Sprang:
"It has come to my attention that Dick Sprang -- 'The Best
of the Bob Kanes' -- is in severely declining health, and not
expected to live more than a few months. Not much anyone here
can do about it, but I thought everyone should know. This man
made an important and significant contribution to the
development of an important and significant character. He will
be missed whenever he leaves us. That this departure may be
sooner rather than later only makes it that much sadder." -- JB
It doesn't sound good, does it? The fact that John Byrne
is willing to comment on this tells me that things are looking
bleak for Dick Sprang.
Boy, the obits just keep rolling in, don't they? Jack Kirby, John
Broome, Charlie Schulz, Gil Kane, Alfredo Alcala ... And in my
bleaker moods it occurs to me how many Silver Age legends are in
advanced years: Stan Lee, Julius Schwartz, Carmine Infantino, Jim
Mooney, Kurt Schaffenberger ... I try not to think about it.
Since this topic was brought up, why do I
get the vibe he never had any true respect for Julie Schwartz
either? Because Jean Loring was based on Julie’s real life wife,
Jean Ordwein, who died in 1986, same year as Gardner Fox. While I
know Julie was part of a generation who came from a time when you
don’t speak poorly about the companies you’re working/ed for, I
still wonder if it’s possible that, when he died in 2004, it was
because he found out DC’s plans with Identity Crisis, and was so
upset that he died? I guess Mr. Smith tries not to think about that
Hey, Cap, I can finally put my Quasar collection to
good use and answer your Mailbag question. Quasar never had the
Nega Bands. Quasar's patron, the cosmic entity Eon, said
Mar-Vell was supposed to get the Quantum Bands that Quasar has,
but because of circumstances beyond his control, they were
misdirected or intercepted. Mar-Vell ended up with the Nega
Bands instead. Eon appointed Mar-Vell "Protector of the
Universe" without the Q Bands.
Before Mar-Vell was born, the Quantum Bands were used by a
long line of Protectors of the Universe and somehow ended up on
a Uranian colony (don't ask). They were brought back to Earth by
the '50s Marvel Boy. Later, he went loony and disintegrated
himself in an issue of Fantastic Four. (Captain's Note: It was
FF 164-165, 1975) The Q Bands went to S.H.I.E.L.D. for study,
where Wendell Vaughn was an agent. He put them on, and the Bands
won't come off until the wearer dies. So he joined
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s superhero program and became the badly named
Marvel Man and later Quasar. Even though Quasar has been killed
once and Ultimately Nullified himself, he still has the Quantum
Bands. I guess you could call him lucky.
The Quantum Bands can absorb and transmit energy, create
Green Lantern-esque light objects and teleport through an
extradimensional space. Quasar has been in the background for a
while, but for the five or so other fans who care, he will be in
the upcoming Avengers Infinity miniseries.
Thanks, [name withheld]! That should clear up the Nega
Band/Quantum Band discussion -- except for how Genis got hold of
his pop's bands. I suppose he inherited them, like a favorite tie
Speaking of “nega”, just add “tive” to
that and you get a word that perfectly describes the influence of
Mr. Smith’s newspaper columns!
Dear Cap: Found this, thought of you.
And I'm glad you did! I found that site a few years ago and was
delighted -- and then promptly lost the URL. This site -- and I am
not making this up -- is the "Periodic Table of Comic Books,"
noting every example the authors could find of a specific element
being mentioned in a comic book. Unbelievable!
Thanks a million, [name withheld]! I've added it to my links site!
Since the above site had neat stuff like
the Atom on it last time I’d looked, I’m not so certain he was
delighted. Nope, not at all.
Dear Cap: You know I will never understand why Marvel
Comics had a black man portray the character of Bucky. It was
far different when Rick Jones was Bucky, not because that it was
"all right" that he was a Caucasian but that he was roughly
around Bucky's age. Was Marvel trying to stir up controversy? If
they were it was very insensitive and insulting. Sigh, I guess
we will never know the reason that prompted such thinking.
It does seem an astonishing lack of sensitivity. Of course, this
was in the '80s, when Falcon was a sidekick, and most other
African-American heroes were depicted in the stereotypical "angry
young black man" mode. Boy, did THAT get old!
So did Mr. Smith’s sugarcoated approval of
various crossovers with repellent themes the instant they came out!
1) <<Superheroines of the Silver Age>>
As Henry P. McCoy would say: "Oh, my stars and garters!" That
site is just incredible. My only quibble was, well, who really
wants to see a photo of Granny Goodness?!?
2) <<Once upon a time WW's writers mixed Roman and Greek
terminology promiscuously, but she's been all Greek (except,
oddly, for her OWN name) since the Perez revamp.>>
Ah, but since Crisis, it has been revealed that the Greek and
Roman pantheons were separate, NOT the different names for the
same people. Yes, Diana is connected with the Greek pantheon,
but the others are around somewhere too (see War of the Gods).
3) <<2099 anything>>
Really? You didn't like Spider-Man 2099?
4) <<Any line of dialogue where somebody addresses somebody
as old friend.>>
Gee, old friend, I'm sorry you feel that way. (snicker)
5) <<First, in Daredevil 11, Matt Murdock entertains
thoughts about how great it is that Echo doesn't smoke.>>
That makes a lot of sense in context. I, with normal senses,
don't like the odor of smokers. With his heightened senses, a
smoker must be murder on Matt Murdock's nose.
6) <<GATECRASHER #4 (Of 4): Is anybody really a big, big fan
of this series? Does anybody admit to buying all four? (Well,
besides me, but I'm a weirdo.) Why for, then, is it going to be an
I'm picking up No. 4. (I'm a weirdo, too.) On the other hand, I
have no intention of buying the regular series.
7) <<Jim Aparo is dead.>>
I just didn't need to know that. The way he drew Batman &
company was my second favorite styling (after Neal Adams).
8) <<(Venus has) had a couple of modern appearances,
including (but not limited to) Marvel Spotlight 2 and Weird Wonder
Venus also appeared a couple of years ago in the Marvel
Valentine Special. She also appeared with the Avengers of the
1950s in the story from What If ...? Vol. 1 and (I think)
9) <<That was pretty much it for Andy for quite a
That's pretty much it for Andy now, too. He died an almost
identical death in Final Night.
1) Ummm. Grandpa Goodness? Just a guess.
2) Yeah, and the Eternals were yet a third race aping the same
3) I did like Spidey 2099 at first. It went downhill slowly, and
then crashed and burned with the panic-driven revamp at the end.
4) Just try saying "old friend" out loud in a conversation. You
sound like a dork!
5) I think the writer established that he took Echo's non-smoking
in stride. It was just when he started noticing a pattern that his
paranoia radar went off.
6) But, gee whiz, Gareb Shamus (is that a real name?) says
Gatecrasher is a big success! Boy, I'd really like a look at those
sales figures! Maybe Ma Shamus bought a lot of copies ...
7) See my mea culpa, above.
8) And I want to say Venus appeared briefly in the final Marvel
Universe storyline, and in a story somewhere with Hercules. But
I'm not sure, and I'm too tired to look it up. Anyway, she shows
up from time to time.
9) Actually, Ferro Lad survived Final Night -- Hal Jordan saved
him at the very last minute.
2]I don’t see the point here.
3]Sooner or later, that’ll be the case with Ultimate Spider-Man.
4]Just try saying “love it or loathe it, [guess what] was truly an
event” out loud in a conversation. You sound like you need a
5]Look who’s talking about patterns but hasn’t noticed any of the
6]Spoken by somebody who doesn’t acknowledge the laughable sales
results in his columns, no less.
7]After we’ve seen his mea culpa for Identity Crisis and other such
8]He’s too tired to tell the difference between fantasy and reality
9]But nobody argued why Hal’s reputation and dignity should be too.
Dear Cap: I have a question for you in regards to the
first Incredible Hulk title in the early 1960s. I know it was
canceled at issue number six but I thought I had read somewhere
that it had nothing to do with it being a failure. If I remember
the story rightly DC actually controlled all the distribution of
comic books at the time and that they only allowed Marvel a
certain number of titles allowing a mix of existing titles
(Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery, etc.) and new titles.
When the Hulk was published they had reached their limit of
"new" titles. So when Stan and Jack came up with The Avengers
they had to decide which existing title to get rid of and
Incredible Hulk drew the short straw. So they put him in the
Avengers and moved him over to Tales To Astonish. The story went
on to mention that is how the Marvel split books developed at
that time. They couldn't launch a brand new title like Iron Man
or Captain America or Incredible Hulk because DC wouldn't let
them distribute it. Therefore, they took their existing
sci-fi/monster books and slowly developed them into superhero
split books. Eventually Marvel's popularity grew and they could
negotiate their own distribution contract. Didn't they even form
their own distribution company? It might be hearsay, a rumor or
even fiction. I was just curious to see if you might have heard
this story as well or if you have any information about it.
It's not a rumor, it's mostly true. A struggling Marvel Comics
(back when it was Timely) cut a deal with DC in 1958 to have the
larger company distribute their books -- but were limited to eight
books a month. But by 1968 they were selling 50 million copies a
year and had the clout to re-negotiate the contract -- which
explains why Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Strange
Tales abruptly split into Captain America, Dr. Strange, Incredible
Hulk, Iron Man, SHIELD and Sub-Mariner. (They didn't form their
own distribution company, though -- they waited until the '90s to
try that, with disastrous results.)
However, I have no hard evidence that the Hulk was canceled in
favor of Avengers -- although it makes sense -- but I do know that
sales on Hulk were not strong.
And neither is his fluff-drenched
<<I know that the Black Panther was MARVEL'S first black
superhero (I believe so anyway) but who was DC's Jackie Robinson
and what year was the
I believe that Jackie Johnson (not Jackie Robinson, who was a
baseball player on Earth-Reality) was the black member of Easy
Company, and so would not be considered a superhero unless one
uses a very liberal definition of the genre. (DC made the
mistake of having a black member of Easy Co. even though the
army was not integrated during World War II. Marvel did the same
with the Howling Commandoes, but at least explained that General
Sam "Happy Sam" Sawyer probably was able to arrange things so
that Gabriel Jones could be a member.)
A good story with Jackie Johnson, who had been a boxer in
civilian life, had him face a German soldier, also a former
boxer, that he had fought in the ring before the war. The German
soldier decides to take the opportunity to box Jackie again,
thinking to prove the superiority of Germanic whites over
blacks. (This story was no doubt inspired to a degree by the
true story of Joe Louis fighting the Jack Schmelling.) An
interesting story; as someone has pointed out, it shows how far
ahead and innovative the DC war comics were for their time when
one considers that this story was published in the same month as
the first appearance of Ultra the Multi-Alien! The story was
reprinted in America at War: The Best of the DC War Comics,
edited by Michael Uslan, an early trade paperback (from the late
1970s!) that also includes an Unknown Soldier story. I was able
to get a copy of it from the library!
The story where Captain America saluted the Punisher was
the last book of Captain America/The Punisher: Blood and Glory.
I found all three issues of the series in the Boston Public
Library! (Klaus Janson was the artist.)
<<He also had a B&W magazine (Rampaging Hulk, later just
Hulk) debuting in 1977 that ran for 27 issues and purported to
tell his early years in more detail -- before being retconned
later as having been a sort of alien TV show.>>
In that magazine was published the horrible story of when Bruce
Banner went to the YMCA and was attacked by a couple of lisping
homosexuals. Just count how many stereotypes there are in that
one sentence (including the name Bruce!).
I remember Jim Shooter being very proud of that story, and giving
numerous interviews to the mainstream press touting Marvel's "new
realism." I also remember the story being, as you describe, a
collection of nasty gay stereotypes that I found offensive -- even
as a young heterosexual who'd given little thought to the subject.
Thanks for the other info!
Ah, what have we here but some
left-liberalism coming into play! It wouldn’t be the only one of its
kind Mr. Smith wrote. While it’s not like Hollywood and such have
ever portrayed LGBT as total saints (the last time I looked anyway),
there have been quite a few moonbats out there who’d like it to be
that way. What is Mr. Smith saying? That gays and lesbians cannot
commit crimes in any way, shape or form? Tell us about it. I don’t
think all LGBT are inherently bad, but they’re still as human as
everyone else and capable of making mistakes. And I’m not saying
Shooter didn’t blow it, but here’s a subject to consider: Harvey
Milk. He exploited a number of men/boys and the worst part is that
he was never arrested for it. Oh, and what about the co-founder of
Atlanta’s Dragoncon convention, Edward Kramer? An apparent
homosexual and would-be social worker who made an undeserved fortune
while tricking young underaged boys into spending time with him at
the convention programs, the worst thing about him is that he abused
the legal system with the money he made to delay his trial for 13
years, all the while pretending he was too sick to stand trial. It
was only in 2011, after eroding the terms of his release that he was
discovered absconding to spend time at a filming set in Connecticut
where he was discovered keeping a 14-year-old in his care, and had
none of the equipment he used for his disguise back in Georgia. Why,
in fact, what about Haredi moonbats who commit sex crimes? Yes, here
too in Israel and in other parts of the world where there’s Haredi
communities, there have been sex abuse scandals to rival those of
the Catholic Church. And Smith acts as though gays can do no wrong?
Suppose Shooter’s intentions were to show that LGBT can also commit
offensive crimes, something all but overlooked? I remember that
early in The Streets of SanFrancisco, Lt. Mike Stone asked a
father in the episode “Whose little boy are you?” whether his son
had been molested (what actually happened there was that the
biological father broke into the house to see – and possibly abduct
– his son). A painful question, no doubt, but as he made clear,
these kind of things happen, and the earliest example of its kind
was when one of biblical Noah’s own sons tried to molest him in
remote times. Shame on Mr. Smith for suggesting that Noah’s own
misfortune was trivial. As far as I know, Marvel may have featured
allusions to heterosexual rapists at the time (does Tomb of Dracula
count?), and if so, why does he have an issue? Why can’t he just say
it’s something audiences of the time weren’t ready for?
Still, since he’d brought up the subject, I’m curious to know if
he’d take offense at Muslims espousing homophobia, along with other
stereotypes. I’ve got a feeling he wouldn’t take any at all, leading
me to wonder if he really believes what he says.
If Smith thought he was doing gays and lesbians a favor by pushing
them for sainthood back when, he only did them a lot of bad. This
brings to mind Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, which told the
account of a gay man who tried robbing a bank so he could get his
trans-buddy a sex change operation. The problem with that movie is
that it took an oddly Stockholm Syndrome approach, and this was just
2 years after the actual case in Sweden. Nevertheless, the whole
issue does prove that homosexuals are capable of committing crimes,
and it’s foolish to claim otherwise. I suppose Mr. Smith also
despises Leviticus for arguing against homosexual practice in his
time? Such is the deleterious world of leftism, alas.
Ahoy Cap'n! I check out your site as regular as
Maalox every Thursday, so I was pretty surprised to read your
mailbag and see a mention of my site. You nailed it on how the
images are created, but while I would agree that some of the
other manip sites DO contain a degree of adult-oriented
material, I've gone to great pains to make my site no more
"adult" than PG-13. You see more skin (or at least flesh-colored
ink) in an issue of Witchblade or Fathom.
Keep up the good work!
Not to mention network television. Have you seen the soaps lately?
Anyway, I just make it policy to always toss in a"warning" label
on any off-site link, just to cover my own flesh-colored ink. Your
site seemed rather tame skin-wise (and a lot of fun), but I didn't
look at every single page, and it would only take one nipple here
or there to stir up the Bluenose Mothers of America. Perhaps I was
being overly cautious, but always better safe than sorry.
Anyway, I now have your assurance that we're talking PG-13 here,
so I'll gladly post your response so that folks reading my site
get a more accurate impression. I've also added Digital Harbour to
my links page.
Again, look who’s talking. The same lefty
reporter who never offered a warning about the exact content of
Identity Crisis, never mentioned its male-only viewpoint, and never
complained that there was no age-rating on the cover. The site he
speaks of may be talking PG-13, but Identity Crisis was talking R.
Dear Cap: Speaking of things you'd like to think
never happened. There is an early issue of Deathlok (I think
it's No. 4 of the crappy early '90s series) where Wolverine, the
Fantastic Four, and I'm pretty sure She-Hulk let Bushwacker go.
Bushwacker, a guy who was once hired to murder mutants in
Daredevil! Wolverine hunts him in that comic, but in Deathlok
the assembled superheroes of the Earth, including Wolvie just
let him walk away. The story was that he'd been captured by a
Doombot because he was a cyborg, but even after an unjust
imprisonment I'm sure he's wanted for murder and very dangerous.
In my opinion any Spider-Man-Punisher team-up should end
with Spidey and the Punisher working together to solve the
problem, then Spidey sucker punching the Punisher and taking him
in. Maybe he would feel a little pity or regret but there's no
way Parker would let him run around.
In fact, after one of the big fights with Carnage, Spidey
did just that to Venom, betraying him with the help of Reed
Richards and sending him off to the Vault. (I think it was in a
train station, I remember Venom kills people to get to Carnage).
The Punisher and that type of comic is OK, just don't
expect me to buy that straight arrows like Cap and Spidey think
they are hunky dory.
P.S. Most of those Doombot tales never happened for me
either. That gag got old fast, and the hopefully the latest one
in Spider-Man has went to the dusty old well for the last time.
I agree completely. I haven't any problem reading a story about a
person who does bad things -- I'm loving Garth Ennis's Punisher,
for example -- I just get annoyed when characters with established
personalities act out of character just to convenience the writer.
Such as the case you mention above.
The correspondent was a leftist reporter,
one with a potentially anti-war bent, so it’s a bit funny he’d say
the Punisher is okay. Mainly because he once signaled
anti-Israelism, the Jewishness of Marvel’s founders notwithstanding
(I wonder what he’d say if he knew Walt
Disney supported the Irgun and was nowhere
near as prejudiced as hitherto thought?). As for Smith,
figures he’d think Ennis’s take is great. And if he was fine with
Identity Crisis, then I don’t see his point complaining about
established casts acting out-of-character just to convenience the
Cap: Stan Lee at DC? Hades has frozen over.
Which means more ice cream for everybody!
Except Mr. Smith, who doesn’t deserve any.
I don’t think the Just Imagine Stan Lee creating project made much
of an impression on anybody in the end, which is a pity, but then,
it’s not like Lee’s been big stuff as a writer since the end of the
80s. With that, we turn to May 11, 2000:
Hey Cap'n: Since you were wondering if my wife read
the Vixen's column, I must admit she did not until I pointed it
out to her, and only the comments on male spending habits in
comics shops. I only know two women who read comics regularly
(and voraciously). One is Jennifer Ford, the creative force
behind the "Birds of Prey" web site (which your readers can
conveniently find on your links page), and the other is a lady
working in the comics shop I patronize. I can't blame her for
getting a job at the shop; she claims to take 55 titles a month,
and the job was the only way she could think of to keep her
HUSBAND from complaining! Holy turnabout! But the Captain is
right; these ladies are the exception, rather than the rule. As
for my wife, she thinks comics are a waste of money (if not
As for my kids, they are a little different. When I go
into a comics shop, they tag along and check out the stuff that
catches their eye. My oldest daughter reads Sailor Moon and the
Powerpuff Girls, as well as collecting their related
merchandise. My son used to read X-Men, Wolverine and
Spider-Man, but now he's dropped them completely in favor of
Pokemon and Star Wars (novels and comics). My youngest daughter
reads her sister's comics, as well as taking an interest in her
brother's Pokemon. None of them has any interest in the
mainstream DC Universe comics I buy each month, which is
interesting considering all of them will watch the
Batman-Superman Adventures with me on the WB! They all like to
read the DC Cartoon Network comics. I suppose these are today's
version of the funny-animal comics we read as kids. I wonder if
DC sells a lot of those TV comics; or do they keep publishing
them in the hopes the youngsters will graduate to more
sophisticated reading as they get older?
A couple months ago, you said although the Captain has no
interest in Pokemon, they were a good thing since they were
bringing young folks into the comics shops. That's true ...but
here is a recent conversation I overheard at a comics shop just
after a young gentleman (I'd estimate he was 13) and his mother
walked in the door:
Teen: How much is that Japanese Pokemon card? (pointing to
one inside the glass case)
Mom: It's his birthday, and he's got a little money.
Owner: Let me ask you something. WHY do you want it? Can
you read Japanese?
Teen: (No response ... blank stare).
Owner: Is it because your friends are buying them? (He
briefly explained what lemmings are.) You should do things
because YOU want them, not because your friends say it's cool.
(The owner spread his hands wide and pointed to his shop, filled
with comics and role-playing games.) There's a whole world of
other stuff out there, just waiting to be discovered ...
Interestingly, the youngster's mother smiled all the while
as the teen pondered the owner's words. Obviously, he'd never
dreamed the owner wouldn't just gleefully take his money and
hand over the expensive card. The young man eventually split his
purchase over several items in the shop, but he didn't buy the
Japanese card. My guess is the young gentleman never even
thought about any of the other items in the store until the
owner piqued his interest.
A few minutes later, I told the owner it was a valiant
effort on his part, but I wondered if he was fighting a losing
battle. He acknowledged he was, indeed, losing the fight in the
long run. He related the tale of his nephew, whom he loaned a
few dozen Superman comics, in hopes of getting him interested in
reading. About 10 days later, the nephew returned them, and said
he enjoyed them. The owner asked if he'd like to read more. No
thanks was the reply. The owner said he just threw up his hands
in exasperation. We discussed why young people don't read comics
as we did at their age, and we speculated on a few reasons.
Video games take most of their time and money, comics aren't
easily available in stores, Pokemon is the cool thing, etc.
But the owner said the biggest problem facing the comics
industry today is the short attention span of the younger
generation. It takes 20 minutes to read a comic, he said, and
that's more time than most young people are willing to invest in
something other than video games in this sound-bite age. I think
he's right, but when you consider most mainstream comics do not
complete the story in one issue, following a storyline from
month to month is more time and effort than these kids are
willing to spend. That's undoubtedly the reason my own kids will
read Cartoon Network comics, but won't read my other DC comics.
We fanboys demand characterization and longer storylines
to keep our interest. Isn't is ironic and funny that this may be
what is keeping new and younger readers from picking up our
hobby ... ?
Clearly, the Captain was right. Pokemon is getting the
youngsters into the stores. But it's apparent it isn't getting
them interested in other comics-related items. My next question
is what happens when the Pokemon craze dies out, as it
inevitably will (think of the Power Rangers and the Spice
Girls). What's going to bring the next generation into the shops
On the other hand, I can't help thinking of when I was a
youngster. I had no interest in comics then -- until Batman came
on the air in 1966. I cringe watching reruns of those shows
today, but at the time I thought they were the greatest thing
I'd ever seen. I've enjoyed other shows, of course, but I can't
ever remember being that excited over ANYTHING since. I couldn't
wait to get to the stores to see the latest thing they
merchandised from the show. And that's how I started reading
Batman, Superman and other DC comics, which I still read. My
point here is Batman was on his last legs before that TV show
made him the hottest thing around; who's to say something
similar won't happen again? This new X-Men movie may be just the
thing ... hope springs eternal.
I don't believe comics will ever completely go away. The
number of titles may dwindle to a few dozen of the best-sellers,
but there'll always be fanboys (and a few fangirls, too).
Besides, Time-Warner is making a FORTUNE on merchandising at the
Warner Bros. stores on those figures, plates and framed artwork.
Think of how many comics they have to sell just to get the same
margin as a single piece of signed art. The folks at Marvel
finally got the idea, and even they are now selling artwork (for
a fee) through their competitor's stores! What's the Captain got
to say about all this?
Whew! You raise a lot issues, [name withheld]! I'll try to be
brief in response, though:
I'm not worried about Pokemon dying out, as it inevitably will. By
the nature of fads (and people) there will be another Pokemon
right behind it. Comics retailers should be prepared to cater to
the Next Big Thing -- they, like everybody else, were caught
flatfooted by Pokemon's popularity -- but they can't depend on it.
As I've mentioned before, what the comics industry needs to do is
re-establish themselves in kids' daily lives -- grocery stores,
pharmacies, doctors' offices, anywhere they're likely to be
dragged to by Mom with lots of time on their hands. Comics shops
by definition are destination stores -- so the kids have to be
"hooked" elsewhere, where comics are available as impulse
purchases. Once hooked, the kids will be coming into the comics
shops for general purposes instead of just following a short-lived
Others have argued convincingly on my site that older fans are
crippling the industry by insisting on "adult" stories and
continuities in Superman, Batman and Spider-Man titles, which
should remain entry-level "kids" comics. I disagree. The industry
is crippled already by the loss of the newsstand sales, and
simplifying superhero stories will simply drive away the remaining
fanboy market. There's room for stories of every style and
description in a healthy industry, from Powerpuff Girls to
Watchmen. The trick is to make comics mainstream again, instead of
Kids still DO like comics, at least those who are exposed to them.
Captain Underpants just hit the FIVE MILLION sales mark -- and it
is solely distributed by Scholastic Magazines. That's all the
proof I need that comics are still viable.
I’m skeptical he has a beef about the loss
of newsstand sales (and Marvel recently withdrew from some
bookstores again), and while I’m not saying the threesome he cites
have to be G-rated, I do think they should be family-friendly with
some kind of parental guidance made possible. If anything, if
they’re going to feature serious issues, then they have to be honest
about them and not trivialize them like Identity Crisis did. What if
one day, some major publisher decideds to write a story involving
child molestation, and just like Identity Crisis, that too ends up
featured as only a plot device? Is the liberal loony left going to
stand for that? It’s chilling to think of the potential they could.
Now, here’s the 2nd letter I wrote to the site:
Dear Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith: Thanks for your
information about the Incredible Hulk's publication history. I
just thought of one more thing I'd like to suggest that you
write about: A column in memory of Don Martin, one of Mad
magazine's maddest and funniest humorists, who passed away in
January of this year. For 31 years, he had drawn some of the
most hilarious cartoons in MAD. As the wife of the late, great
Bill Gaines, Annie, had said in an interview with the Baltimore
Sun, "It was such laugh-out-loud stuff."
I too was one many people who enjoyed reading his
cartoons. From men whose smiles came as the result of
coat-hangers in their mouths to parodies of Star Wars, his
satirical drawings were among the funniest that Mad magazine has
ever published, and it's a shame that in 1987 he quit because of
a property dispute with Gaines (he continued to draw for their
rival, Cracked, though).
If I remember correctly, you did publish a column in
memory of Gil Kane, one of DC Comics' best artists, who worked
on Green Lantern during the 1960s. And you certainly did publish
one about Charles Schulz, the cartoonist of Peanuts in February.
But I can't remember if you published anything about Don Martin.
It would be a good idea to do so, since there are a lot of
people who enjoyed his work, and if there's any Mad humorist
who'll be remembered most, it's Don Martin. Please try therefore
to devote a column to his memory. Thank you.
Given that the master of the silly sound effect died back in
February, I've missed my "time peg," as editors call it.
Unfortunately, I didn't write a Don Martin column the month he
died either because, even more unfortunately, it was the same
month that Charles Schulz and Gil Kane and I just didn't have the
room! However, I'll be sure to include him in the year-end column,
or any other place I have an excuse to mention him. And I'll be
sure to post your letter, so that there will be yet another
mention on the web site. Thanks for the heartfelt letter -- I was
a big fan, too!
Given what an awful propagandist he was,
that’s why I’ve long concluded it wouldn’t be worth it for him to
write about Martin’s passing. Nor was his coverage proper of Schultz
and Kane’s passings worth it. I’ve said it before and will say it
again: after he fawned over IC, that I would waste my time on this
embarrassment of a leftist is regrettable.
A few Bat-related comments/questions this week:
1) Of course the Batcave has its own generator. Didn't you
see the very first episode of the '60s TV series? Molly, the
Riddler's sidekick (played by Jill St. John), fell into it and
died. She's the only villain to die in the entire series.
(THERE'S trivia for you!)
2) Jim Aparo died? When? Wasn't he still drawing Batman
like a year or two ago? The guy has probably pencilled more
Batman stories than anyone ever and no one tells me when he
passes away? Sure, he wasn't always very good, but many times he
was. And he also drew a kick-butt Aquaman.
3) The topic of drug references -- I've always felt that
the Bat-titles usually did a good job of denigrating drug use
without sounding too obnoxious or fake. Jim Gordon's
tobacco-related heart attack was very well done, and the Venom
storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight (in which Batman got
hooked on steroids), while flawed, was genuinely disturbing and
dealt with the subject in a mature manner.
On the other hand, I recall a storyline in Shadow of the
Bat (I think) a few years ago, featuring Poison Ivy, that really
demonized marijuana and seemed a little too
government-sponsored, knee-jerk, "pot is destroying society"
preachy. Granted, as a strong supporter of legalizing the
substance, I'm biased here, but I really think that marijuana is
an minuscule threat compared to, say, alcohol (which is legal,
celebrated and encouraged.) I don't ask that we see Batman toke
up on a rooftop -- I'm not an idiot, I know it's not good for
you -- I just ask that if the character is going to address a
real-world problem, he address something that really is a
problem. And I also ask that the government stay the heck out of
4) A very random question: As you may or may not have
noticed, in that ever-present photo of Elian Gonzalez with
his dad immediately after they were reunited, the kid is
wearing a Batman T-shirt (you can clearly see the logo on the
cover of Time magazine.) So here's my question: DC has the
copyright to that logo, and there it is all over major national
publications. Do they get any money? (Obviously not from Time,
because they're the same company, but what about the New York
1) Yeah, that's a great piece of trivia! But -- Jill St. John?
Argh! If you have to kill somebody, why Jill St. John? I had such
a crush on her after Diamonds Are Forever ...!
2) As you probably have seen on my site last week, Jim Aparo is
hale and hearty, and I am an idiot. I was thinking of Don Newton,
3) The comic-book industry just received some kind of award
recently for how it handled Warbird's alcohol dependency and some
other drug story. At first that seemed like good news, but with
the recent scandals involving clandestine government funding of
anti-drug slants in the entertainment industry, my paranoia radar
is up and running. Just like you, I don't encourage drug or
alcohol use (whatever my personal habits), but on general
principle I want the government to stay the heck away from my
funnybooks. Ping, ping, ping ...
4) DC won't receive any money from that Batman shirt. It's just
what the kid happened to be wearing during a news event. That's
covered by U.S. tort law, so the usual copyright/trademark
infringement issues are obviated.
Here’s where the correspondent screws up.
I guess he’s the kind of leftist who thinks cannabis – the actual
scientific name for the crappy drug weed – is perfectly fine in
every way? Let’s be clear: I will not stand for this. My very own
parents once had the misfortune of going to a party in 1973 where
some cannabis cigarette was being passed around, and luckily, they
resisted and nobody lambasted them for it. But hey, they could have
been victimized by that excrement and in any event, drugs are not
something anybody with brains should have to be reliant on, that’s
for sure. They sure don’t offer any protein like various foods do.
And the part where they attack the government over something
otherwise meant to be altruistic is ludicrous too. I’ll bet these
are the same people who wouldn’t give a rat’s butt about the Obama
administration’s raising taxes on conservative movements like the
Tea Party, and come to think of it, they wouldn’t have a care in the
world about uncontrolled illegal immigration in the USA, with
interlopers slipping across the porous borders from Central/South
America. Yet they see fit to attack NYPD surveillance of Islamists
to check if there’s any danger being plotted in those vicinities, as
the Associated Press did.
All that aside, does Mr. Smith really buy into the notion the
government literally has a hand in every statement calling for
people to try and protect themselves against bad influences? All
that’s doing is suggesting nobody in comics is an altruist. It’s
ludicrous. It’s like saying Louise Simonson wasn’t being sincere
when she wrote at least one story alluding to issues like child
abuse in Power Pack during its 1984-91 run. What a fool Smith is.
Dear Captain: The question of whether or not there
are more than enough books cast in the superhero/fantasy (genre)
pops up constantly and I just want to say that there should
never be a limit with regards to the number of titles that come
out under this popular genre. Sure it can be argued that "you
may have seen it all before" but everyone has a story to tell
and should be given that golden chance to tell it. Also, there
are contributors who bring truly original concepts to the world
of superheroics. Whether or not it would be well-written and/or
well-received is entirely a different matter. One can not make
an opinion whether or not the title is enjoyable unless it
appears in print. I look forward to sampling new titles such as
(Brian Michael) Bendis's Powers and Fanboy Comics' Sidekicks.
Could you just imagine if a quota were actually in place
and we could not sample comics like Planetary, Flex Mentallo,
Major Bummer, Captain Dingleberry, Love In Tights, The Tick and
Starman, to name a few? Go forth and multiply, I say.
I hear that too-many-superheroes argument all the time also,
[...], and I find it specious beyond belief. The reason that there
are so many superhero titles is because they SELL. If Peter
Bagge's HATE sold 275,000 copies a month, then you'd see dozens of
similar comics instantly. Faulting superhero comics for being
popular is actually faulting US for buying them -- and I take that
While nobody should be faulted for buying
superhero comics, they most certainly should be for buying without
consideration of story quality, and only for the speculator market.
Not that he’s ever seriously argued the point, though.
The big item on the front cover of the new Previews is the
100th issue of Spam -- I mean Spawn. There will be a death in
the issue and they tell is it will be one of five women. Gee,
more violence against women in comics -- that's what we need!
Anyway, it will be Wanda (Spawn's ex-wife), Cyan (Wanda's
daughter), Granny Blake (his, well, granny), Angela (an enemy
angel) or Tiffany (another enemy angel).
As sick as it sounds --and is -- the only way this issue
could surprise me is by having Cyan die. Having Cyan be the
victim wouldn't automatically make it a good story, just a less
predictable one. I find it very, very hard to believe that
they'll kill an innocent little girl. Granny Blake was ancient
when I stopped reading Spawn (in the early 20s) so her death is
sorta inevitable. Angela and Tiffany are A) enemies and B)
angels; if they even can die you can be sure that they'll be
Frankly, I have the same feeling about Wanda. So what if
she dies? She'll be back. This series is about someone who
returned from the dead! Are we really supposed to take the death
of any character in this book as a permament situation?
Again, having Cyan be the victim wouldn't automatically
make it a good story, just a less predictable one. I find it
very, very hard to believe that they'll kill an innocent little
Your analysis sounds pretty much on the money to me, from a story
standpoint. But Spawn's never been blessed with good stories. In
fact, the whole premise is self-limiting and -- apologies in
advance to Spawn fans -- just plain stupid. You've got a lead
character who's A) dead and B) damned, so why worry about him? Not
much worse can happen. Secondly, he can't show his face -- so
throw any romantic subplots out the window. Thirdly, every time he
uses his power, it gets used up -- so writers must avoid having
him use his powers. Finally, he's not a very NICE lead character
-- in fact, he really deserves all the bad things that have
happened to him. So you've got a comic book with A) no drama, B)
no romance, C) no spectacle and D) no empathy. And as you say, the
premise is that death and damnation are mutable concepts, so you
needn't really worry about the supporting characters either. On
paper, it's a loser.
But it's been in the Top 10 for the last eight years, so what do I
Answer: Nothing at all. He’s the same
scoundrel who embraced Identity Crisis, and come to think of it, so
too did the correspondent. I don’t put any value on either of these
arguments, because they’re just a load of manure.
Dear Cap: The Legion of Superheroes aren't actually
being revamped, they're being evolved, I guess you can say. By
now you know about the Legion Lost miniseries and it's
been said that some of the stranded Legionnaires will forget
what it means to be a Legionnaire. That probably means that they
will do things that are questionable. My money is on Ultra Boy
and Umbra to be the ones.
They do seem the least socialized, don't they? That Umbra is a
REAL unpleasant person!
And that “captain” is a very dishonest
one! Also an illogical one, because this is the umpteenth example of
his failure to acknowledge fictional characters are just that, and
it’s not even their fault for being cyphers. We turn next to May 18,
Dear Cap'n: I lost a good friend yesterday (May 10).
He was a distinguished-looking, 85-years-young gentleman. I
never met the man, but I've known his work almost all my life.
It was this man who started me (as a child) down the road to
comics happiness all those years ago.
His name is Dick Sprang. And the ironic thing of it is I
never knew him until years later (as an adult).
Although I'm an aging Baby Boomer, Sprang's work as the
regular Batman artist was completed by the time I began to read
comics in the mid-1960s. Before the Batman TV series, I remember
reading Superman and the Legion, but no Batman (except in an
occasional issue of the Justice League). After the show hit, I
began reading as much Batman as I could find. The regular
monthly comics were OK, but it was the wonderful 80-Page Giants
that got my attention (and all for a quarter!).
The Batman 80-Page Giants were filled with reprints of
Golden Age stories, introducing me to a Gotham City beyond my
imagination. And on the splash page of these stories, I found
only one name -- Bob Kane. Naturally, I thought Kane wrote and
drew these stories, especially since my father told me he had
created Batman years before.
I didn't find out until 20 years later that those stories
had been written by Bill Finger, and illustrated by Dick Sprang.
Their world was filled with exciting, over-the-top yarns filled
with (literally) larger than life objects. Almost everything in
these tales were giant-sized: children's toys, chess pieces,
musical instruments, statues, etc. Only the people seemed
normal. Gotham City must have been pretty big to house all these
Sprang had been replaced as the regular Batman artist by
Sheldon Moldoff by the time I began reading, but my greatest
comics thrills as a youngster were from Sprang's stories in
those 80-Page Giants.
Dick Sprang's take on Batman is the definitive one from
the Golden Age (more so than even Bob Kane's). As proof, I offer
a recent episode of Batman's animated TV show (titled "Legends
of the Dark Knight"). It has a segment fondly recalling Sprang's
work on Batman (as well as Frank Miller's Dark Knight). While
watching this episode with my children, they exclaimed that this
couldn't POSSIBLY be Batman! But I calmly pointed out they were
watching the Batman from the comics 50 years before, and I
proved it by breaking out my copy of Stacked Deck: The Greatest
Joker Stories Ever Told. I proudly showed off Dick Sprang's
artwork. They had a good laugh, but I didn't care. I just
re-read the stories and enjoyed them once more.
A few weeks ago, you related how Bob Kane managed to avoid
the same problems Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had with DC. You
also mentioned how Kane employed a stable of writers and artists
who worked for him and not directly for DC. This explained why
Finger's and Sprang's names were never on the stories they
produced. I recently picked up a copy of Bob Kane's
autobiography, Batman and Me. Kane wrote that Bill Finger, Dick
Sprang, Jerry Robinson and others never asked for a byline, and
the thought never occurred to him to give one. Kane said he
regretted that years later. This practice appears to have been
widespread; it wasn't until the Marvel influence of the 1960s
that listing credits became the norm.
At any rate, I know I will miss Dick Sprang. It was he who
got the attention of a young lad a long time ago, with work he
had done many years before that. I only wish he had received
more credit for his contributions.
The last work from Dick Sprang (that I know of) came on
the covers for a couple of issues of Detective in the late
1980s. Did he have any work later than that? And what other work
did Dick Sprang do besides on Batman? Is there a Dick Sprang web
site out there?
Thanks for listening, Captain. Now I know how you felt
when Gil Kane died a few months ago. I'm going to break out my
copies of the Golden Age Batman stories and remember Dick Sprang
Sprang's last published work was an affectionate two-page Batman
parody in Fanboy 5 (1999).
How does the correspondent know how Mr.
Smith felt if 4 years later, he piles insult onto injury circa
Identity Crisis? Makes me wonder if he’s really a Sprang fan too.
From several sources (Comicon.com, usenet, Another
Dick Sprang RIP
Legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang (1915-2000) passed
away in his sleep early this morning, apparently after a months
Sprang's recent poor health was quite well known among
folks in the industry. I heard that he died in relative comfort
While not the Batman artist of my youth (Jim Aparo was, as
you well know!), Sprang did influence the look of the TV show,
which did influence me as much as the comics. I learned to
appreciate him when his name was placed alongside his wonderful
art when he had a brief renaissance in the Batmania of the late
This is just sad ...
I seem to recall this correspondent as
quite a leftist, so much that I question whether he was an Aparo fan
Dear Cap; On the subject of Black superheroes, what
do you think about Triathlon? I agree with much of Mr. Monkey's
review of Avengers 29. I hope Triath quits being a jerk soon and
starts to be an Avenger. He isn't alone in his jerkitude,
however. Hawkeye had his days and look how well he turned out!
I've gonna give George Perez and Kurt Busiek the benefit of the
doubt. They're both pros, so I know this is going somewhere.
Also, I helped a buddy of mine create the first Triathlon
homepage! Check it out at: http://triadhome.tripod.com/
I also am riveted to the Triathlon saga (while being truly
irritated by his jerkitude). Is he a Triune spy? A
chip-on-his-shoulder type that merely requires being accepted and
to learn teamwork? Or just a capital-J jerk who CAN'T work with a
team? You mentioned Hawkeye, and I suspect we may be seeing
something along those lines. Regardless, I'm paying close
attention -- which is good comics!
It was revealed Triathlon was too cozy
with the religious cult called Triune Understanding, which might
have had something to do with what Smith calls his “jerkitude”.
Regardless, he’s still in denial over the writer being responsible
for that. That aside, Triathlon was largely dropped from the cast
after Busiek left and never seen again. And Smith probably didn’t
Dear Cap: So now I hear that Kirby drew the cover to
Amazing Fantasy 15. I did not know it. I believe it. I don't
know what to make of it.
<<Yeah, as I recall, the pre-Crisis Luthor was mad at Supes
for making him lose his hair in an accident in Smallville. Good
As (Elliott S!) Maggin writes it, this isn't too unbelievable.
Luthor was a genius who had completed a previously undoable
deed/experiment at a young age. He set an irrational blame on
Superboy, his rages increased for a short stretch and he
combined his intellect and his natural greed that all humans
Dr. Doom irrationally blamed Reed for his own mistake. I
just thought of something. Maybe Victor blames Reed for not
being more convincing about the inaccuracy. If Reed were
persistent enough, Doom would not have been in that accident and
Doom knows that. Or maybe Doom just has an ego and a jealousy
The Post-Crisis Luthor is/was jealous of Superman since
Man of Steel 3.
What makes the depth of Doom's self-absorption and
self-justification so believable to me is that I have met people
who are just like him. Only the megalomaniacal people I know
aren't scientific geniuses/sorcerors with their own countries. And
thank God for that!
Well I guess it isn’t too unbelievable Mr.
Smith fails to distinguish between fantasy, reality, and how the
latter writes what appears in the former. That doesn’t make it any
more logical or acceptable though. Incidentally, did Smith ever look
at himself in the mirror when he wrote that (or even his reflection
in the computer screen)? Because if he did…
Dear Cap: In the most recent Q&A, you said:
<<Since no superhero-based show since the '60s has been a
breakout hit, they are unlikely to try another one.>>
While I'll agree that recent superhero shows, like The Flash
and Lois & Clark haven't done spectacularly, it seems that
there has been at least a couple of costumed heroes on the small
screen that did well since the '60s. The Incredible Hulk is
probably the most obvious example, lasting a number of seasons,
and spawning multiple TV movies. And while it's not based on any
previously published character, The Greatest American Hero also
did pretty good, and as mentioned in this week's Mailbag, is
looking like it's going to be made into a motion picture (Wizard
says that Adam Sandler is the top contender for the lead. Let's
<<Although Zan and Jayna have appeared -- presumably as
jokes -- in Final Night and Kingdom Come. And there was one
Superman story where two characters remarkably similar to Zan and
Jayna made an appearance, but the concept has never been
Actually, the two have appeared in post-Crisis continuity, in
the absolute drek series called Extreme Justice. Gleek didn't
come with them, but despite slight costume modifications, it was
very obviously them. Originally they spoke no English (which
should be a given for any off-world characters coming to Earth
for the first time, but almost never is ...). Of course, the
series that they were in was truly awful, so after their first
appearance, I lost track of them. I'm sure someone else can fill
in the blanks beyond that.
"Form of ... a Comic Book Geek!"
"Shape of ... a shower!"
"A shower? What good is that to a Comic Book Geek?"
(I only tease those I love ...)
That Extreme Justice story I was thinking of when I said "some
Superman story." I knew I'd read somewhere that they'd made an
appearance. But, like you, I try to put Extreme Justice out of my
As to your point about superhero TV stories: It's probably
semantics, but I used the word "breakout" before "hit"
specifically to forestall references to Incredible Hulk, Greatest
American Hero, Flash, et al. Flash was a darn good show, for
example, and as you noted, Hulk and GAH ran for a respectable
number of seasons. But Batman was a BREAKOUT hit, like a Hill City
Blues or a Sopranos, that had the whole country talking -- and,
more importantly, selling lots of merchandise and inspiring
copycat shows (like Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific). Those are the
kinds of shows that get the attention of the weasels in suits at
TV studios, which was the point I was trying to make. Hulk,
semi-successful as it was, did not inspire imitators.
Flash as a TV series was not a good show,
as I concluded before. Incredible Hulk was, probably because it
dealt with serious issues more than some of the DC adaptations
actually did, and without worrying about whether it suited the
scenario. Plus, it was a loose adaptation, as noted before. The
Greatest American Hero was enjoyable, but it lost ground in ratings
pretty fast and got cancelled before the last 4 episodes were even
broadcast on network, so they had to air them in syndicated reruns.
(Trivia note: it was the first Stephen J. Cannell series to feature
his famous company logo with the typewriter scene at the end.)
All that aside, yours truly is a man weary today of all these comics
adaptatations to screen, and find it sad they’ve taken precedence
over the printed books. So much it’s gotten to the point where I’m
certainly not up to rushing to buy tickets to the movie theater.
Dear Cap: Once again, look to Extreme Justice. Yes,
the book sucked. But just before it was canceled, Zan and Jayna
were introduced into mainstream DC continuity, so their
appearances in The Final Night and Kingdom Come were not jokes
(well, okay, probably) but reminders that they are lurking
Ambush Bug also cameoed in Chronos, either the last issue
of that series or the penultimate issue, I can't remember for
sure. But at any rate, it establishes the final fate of the
character in a way I really enjoyed. Since at the end of his
series of miniseries and specials Buggy got kicked out of the DC
Universe, he now owns and operates "The Bar Outside of Time,"
where DC time-traveling, dimension-hopping characters (like
Chronos) hang out.
Sorry -- your answer to the Captain Atom question reverses
things. Captain Atom was supposed to be Monarch, but the news
had leaked out ahead of time (though, yes, most people had
guessed it), so it was switched to Hank Hall, a.k.a Hawk, in a
completely impossible scenario. I had enjoyed those "Armageddon
2001" annuals until that moment. Because even now with
Hypertime, I contend that Hank Hall couldn't have been Monarch
because in the Hawk and Dove future adventure they were shown to
be clearly in rebellion against Monarch. Phew. I've waited years
to get that off my chest.
For a couple of years after that, Monarch was basically
Captain Atom's biggest arch-enemy, until Zero Hour turned
Monarch into Extant. But wait, there's more. Then in Extreme
Justice, it turned out that all this time the hero we knew as
Captain Atom was actually a quantum duplicate of the real
Nathaniel Adam, who had been stuck in quantum space until
discovered and rescued by Extant. To discredit his quantum
duplicate, Adam became ... Monarch, since the job was open.
Thankfully, the book was canceled shortly thereafter.
And then came The L.A.W., which, if I were Captain Atom,
I'd rather have become Monarch in the first place.
And pre-Crisis, when DC published a Super Friends book,
they did make a half-hearted attempt to tie it into regular
continuity, but even as a young boy I understood this just
didn't work. Wendy was Batman's niece (What's that? Impossible
you say? And I say it, too), and Marvin was the son of the real
Diana Prince, the one who looked just like Wonder Woman and who
agreed to leave Washington so Wonder Woman could assume her
identity. (Yep, it's somewhere in those early Sensation Comics.)
Anyway, that Diana Prince also did really have a baby boy, so
Marvin might not be so far-fetched. Stupid, maybe, but not
far-fetched, hence his legitimate (?) appearance in Kingdom
Come, with no sign of Wendy.
I cannot speak for Wonder Dog.
I wouldn't expect you to, [...]! It would be, um, "ruff." (Sorry.
That joke was a dog. I was barking up the wrong tree. Someone
should muzzle me before I pun again. Arf, arf, arf.)
The Wonder Woman story you're referring to was in Sensation Comics
1, in which Wonder Woman bumps into a sobbing woman who just
happens to look exactly like her, who just happens to need to
leave town immediately but can't afford it, while WW just happens
to need a secret ID. Faster than you can say "Merciful Minerva!"
Wondy whips out the appropriate funds from her star-spangled
swimsuit -- I don't want to know where she kept it -- and a
bargain was struck.
Ambush Bug had a one-panel cameo in Chronos 1,000,000 (1998) as
the barkeep of the Chrono Zone bar. Thanks!
As to Captain Atom/Hank Hall being Monarch, I transposed the names
when I typed in that response. You can hardly blame me, given that
BOTH characters at one time or another were Monarch! But thanks
for the Monarch Villain History -- since most of us would rather
pretend the whole thing didn't happen., it's nice to know that
somebody's keeping track of it -- !
Yet another moment where I question
whether he really had any problem with the crossover first time
around. I don’t think he did, though he only began his pseudo-trade
a year or so after Armageddon. But if he had begun at the time, I
seriously doubt you’d see much significant criticism involved.
Personally, I’ve wondered if Captain Atom was ever really the
designated hero to be turned villain, and if Hank Hall was intended
all along to become Monarch because he technically was a
conservative. And one day, my suspicions might prove correct.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the brief Chronos series sucked too,
maybe worse than Extreme Justice.
Dear Cap: Terry Moore is going to do an issue of
Strangers In Paradise that will be pure uperhero fantasy. Here
is a synopsis of the issue:
"Not With My Cape You Don't!"
It's the annual SIP Special Summer One-Shot! The SIP gang
is featured in a superhero parody entitled "Not With My Cape You
Don't!", with Francine as The Wallflower, Katchoo as Razormouth
and David as Captain Ahhh! Casey dreams she and her SIP friends
are heroes battling Freddie, as the arch-villian Fex Femur, for
world peace when he attempts to sieze semi-control of a very
small town outside of a major metropolitan area (sorry, but as
the slacker generation hits the villian ranks, this is about as
ambitious as they seem to get)!
It is always interesting to read and experience the
concepts of non-mainstream writers when it comes to the mystery
men and women whose fashion senses say "I am an individualist
"... and perhaps a bit of the exhibionist? All the while they
strive to save the day.
Cap, perhaps it is not a mystery that superheroics will be
making a "guest star " appearance in Strangers In Paradise.
The issue in question is Strangers in Paradise 33, due in June.
Man, no wonder I’d rather not have
anything to do with this ridiculous book!
Dear Cap: In response to the Ambush Bug question
(last week) don't forget a really nifty cameo in Elseworld's
Finest, the alternate-Earth, Bat- and Super-woman prestige
So says a moonbat who once worked at a
newspaper, IIRC. I would call this brief letter a really cruddy side
Dear Cap: When I see the covers of Silver Age titles
and read the headlines on them, I tend to want to read the
stories as the imaginations of the writers back then were
interesting. Imagine, shining knights riding giant dobermans and
trying to bring back "American values."
Legend has it that DC editors would come up with "Gotcha!" covers
first, and then assign writers to come up with stories to explain
them. Theoretically, that's why the covers were so intriguing, and
why so often the stories didn't measure up. Given that so many of
those Silver Age covers -- particularly at DC -- were so
jaw-dropping, one wonders if going for more "truth in advertising"
on the covers didn't lose something particularly cool about
I once thought that when Marvel suddenly
stopped using captions like those at the time J. Michael Stracynski
wrote Spider-Man. But that was the least of the problems. What was
lost was good writing, something even JMS lacked.
Dear Capn: Okay, first the big one. I don't agree
with your view that superhero comics aren't something of an
enemy to the industry and medium in general. I do think that to
a real extent, they are. You point out that it's just the case
that superhero comics simply sell, while alternatives to
superhero stuff don't. Of course this is true. But I honestly do
think that the success of, the domination of the industry by,
superhero comics is part of why alternatives succeed so very
little. I LOVE superhero comics, but I do believe that they have
largely informed the general public's impression of what comics
are. And this impression is one that I don't think ... impresses
too many people outside of outright fandom. It gives too many
people, I feel, the picture -- accurate or not -- that comic
books are juvenalia itself. This view will help keep people away
from ANY kind of comic book.
This is all theorizing, of course, but I do think it has
some merit to it: Imagine a world in which superhero comics
didn't define the medium for the "average" folk. Where that
impression simply wasn't in place. If people turned to comics at
all, which to a certain extent I think they would -- we are a
consumer society, you betchum -- they would be more geared to
finding out what comics actually ARE, as opposed to the
narrowly-defined genre they THINK comcs are. Thus, if there was
a good range of types of comics out there, they would find all
different books to choose from, and I think these books would
probably sell quite better than they do now. Because people
wouldn't have a preconceived notion of the medium keeping them
away in the first place.
Next: Someone was wondering what was up with Grell. Well,
in the latest issue of Comic Book Artist, he is interviewed and
reports that he has written a Sable novel (I think it's already
out; can't remember) and that he is planning on returning to
writing (and I believe drawing) Jon Sable Freelance as a comic
book. I believe he said it would be an ongoing series, and he
definitely is determined to do it, but I don't think he said how
close he is to actually getting any of it published yet. People
may want to pick up CBA 8 to see if Grell talks more about what
he's doing lately -- I haven't read the whole interview yet.
And, from that "indie" list from which you said you
wouldn't be buying anthing, I buy only Eddie Campbell's Bacchus.
Some don't care for Campbell's art style, but if you dig it like
me, I'd recommend this book. And even if you're not into the
story of the drunken god, well, right now he's barely an element
of the book! It has very much evolved lately into a Campbell
anthology, featuring all different kinds of strips and features
-- and even the work of this one other artist -- every month.
Plus, this issue you get to see Eddie Campbell's wee-wee. Sort
of. And Campbell's one heckuva hunk, in real life at least, so
this is not an unattractive prospect.
Um, I'll take your word for it, [withheld]!
Anyway, I'm one of those guys who doesn't care much for Campbell's
art. I'm open to and accepting of different art styles, but
Campbell frustrated me when I first read Bacchus years ago because
I often couldn't tell what's going on, or who was speaking.
Perhaps it's a factor of my aging eyes, but for whatever reason it
made for slow, painstaking going and I dropped the title. Still,
based on your recommendation, I'll make another stab at it.
As to superheroes dooming the industry: You make a good argument,
but when have comics EVER been thought of as anything but a
children's medium? It's not like superheroes BROUGHT comics to
that level -- they were always there. And comics did turn away
from superheroes in the '50s -- and nearly died on the vine.
Lots of different genres have been tried in comics -- war,
Western, crime, romance, even piracy -- but the superhero soap
opera was the only genre that lasted. To paraphrase Kurt Busiek's
immortal words: "Superheroes aren't to blame for the decline of
the industry -- they were just the Last Man Standing as the
industry declined around them." To use MY immortal words -- which
I'm quite proud of, by the way -- to blame superheroes for the
decline of the industry is like blaming survivors of the Titanic
for the existence of icebergs.
I think that the format of comics and superheroes just naturally
go hand-in-hand: Colorful, larger-than-life characters on a huge
canvas that are eye-popping and pulse-pounding in their native
habitat, but look just silly in TV/movies and read somewhat
juvenile in prose. On the other hand, other genres don't work as
well in comics (or work better in other media). Romance novels
sell like nobody's business, but in comics romance stories come
across as talking heads. Science fiction can be an adrenline
junkie's dream on film, but those spaceships just don't look as
big and imposing on the flat page of comics.
And, really, for all the breast-beating we do about how "indie"
comics don't do very well in comics -- well, how many of them are
really very good? Spectacles, Oddzine and the like are just
adolescent navel-gazing. Hate and its ilk are going to have a
very, very limited audience no matter the genre. Superhero soap
opera, though, spans a large age range and covers a lot of varied
tastes (if somewhat limited in gender) -- and it looks darn good
on the printed page.
I'm not dismissing your argument, though -- just adding to the
debate. Anybody else have any thoughts?
Sure, I’ve got some, and it’s about how
pathetic his observations are when he can’t offer any of the same in
his columns for the newspapers! Let us be clear, even today, when
the internet is in such wide use, it doesn’t help to just make these
arguments in mail exchanges and forums when editorials are still the
best way to get our points across.
About Grell: no matter how much I may be impressed with his take on
Green Arrow, his propaganda in Iron Man featuring a Muslim woman as
the person whom Tony helps is sickening in retrospect no matter what
time it was produced at. And it makes little difference if she later
turned against Tony, that was still embarrasingly bad if you ponder
how the story was a metaphor for the war in in Yugoslavia, taking
the wrong side. Again, note Pamela Geller’s research. And the
religion ascribed to the character is unlikely to be suggested as a
motivating factor in her assault on Pepper Potts.
On the issue of why comics aren't selling well, I
think that it would be foolish to ignore the fact that most
comics cost AT LEAST $2.25 nowadays. I don't know how to put
this without sounding like an old geezer that wants to pay a
nickel for a soda, but I can remember buying 20 comics for $10
when I first started collecting comics in the early '80s. I used
to ask my mom for a comic whenever we visited the local 7/11,
and she usually would oblige. But, now (that I'm) a father, I
really have to think twice about shelling out over 2 bucks for
what used to be called "disposable literature" (and when you are
dealing with a 6 year old ... that's exactly what it is).
My suggestion to the comics industry is this: Drop the
fancy colors and slick paper, make the stories FUN again, STOP
taking yourselves so SERIOUSLY (we are talking about grown men
and women running around in tights punching people, after all),
and MAKE COMICS AFFORDABLE for kids and their ever-lovin'
Thanks for your forum, Cap.
You're welcome, and thanks for contributing!
You make a good argument, but I have to bring up what Fabian
Niceiza lamented when his Acclaim line folded. To paraphrase him:
"I don't understand why a kid will pay $60 for a Turok videogame
he'll tire of in a week, but thinks that $2 is too much for a
Turok comic book he'll have forever." (At the time the Turok
videogame was outselling the comic book by about a 20-to-1
Sure, I used to spend a whole dollar a month on Marvel's entire
output in the '60s -- but I only earned a dollar (or less) for
mowing a lawn. Now, I routinely pay $60 to have my lawn mowed --
and kids won't do it because it doesn't pay enough to suit them!
Last year I had a 62-year-old man doing it, primarily because he
loves to do yardwork. This year I have a lawn service doing it.
This is mostly anecdotal evidence, of course, but I have to wonder
how much price is really the main factor. Kids in $300 tennis
shoes playing $60 videogames on $200 PlayStations don't seem to be
hurting for $3 for a Fantastic Four. They just don't choose to
spend their money thataway. Personally, I think it's because they
aren't exposed to comics reading early and never develop the habit
(in both senses of the word).
Again, I'm not dismissing your point. This is a healthy debate we
all need to think about. Anybody else think price is the smoking
Sure, but it was all because of the
decline in story quality, not to mention the unviability of the
pamphlet format, something he still hasn’t fully grasped. I would
add to the correspondent’s note that the medium also has to stop
writing stories that don’t focus seriously on grave issues like
sexual abuse, with Identity Crisis being a leading example. At the
same time, IC is still a notable example of what he’s talking about,
that being the focus on gloom and misery, not to mention depicting
heroes unheroically. Not that Mr. Smith ever understood that,
tragically. Based on which, it’s a pity the writer had to say it was
a great “forum”, when it wasn’t.
Maybe he was begging the question, and maybe it was
your place to answer this, but in answer to [name withheld]'s
question about which characters to bring out of limbo, I think
the answer's obvious.
Bring back Beppo now! Make him the leader of a new JLA
(Justa Lotta Animals). I'm holding Ron Marz's talent hostage
until this happens. I doubt he'll miss it though.
Assuming it could be found. Ahem.
But, vis-a-vis your reference to the Chimp of Steel, I can think
of no better character to re-instate to his rightful place in the
DCU. How dare they leave this strange visitor from another world
I shudder to think that the next generation will grow to adulthood
without Beppo's wise example to follow. Not to mention Groucho,
Zeppo, Harpo, Gummo and Chico.
I doubt the left-wing propagandist who
wrote that letter really had any issues with Marz’s writing on GL,
if that’s what he was trying to say. Same with Smith, but that’s
probably moot by this point.
Lets see: "Armageddon 2001" was originally set to
reveal that Captain Atom was to become Monarch, the villain from
Waverider's future. Unfortunately, there was a leak. In fact,
the New England Comics newsletter, knowing (which way) the wind
was blowing, even listed Captain Atom 57, the last issue of the
title, as an Armageddon 2001 crossover, even though DC didn't!
(NEC said "Waverider could have saved some time if he had picked
this up as a back issue!) As a result, at the last minute, DC
changed it so that Hank Hall (Hawk) became Monarch! (Though Hawk
has brown eyes, and Monarch was seen as having blue eyes.)
Dr. Light's activities in Showcase is covered at:
So THAT'S who spilled the beans on Monarch! It was common
knowledge down here in the South by the time Monarch was
"revealed," but I didn't know how it got spread around. Thanks,
Whether or not Captain Atom was the
intended victim of that old stunt, was it justified? Absolutely not.
What disappoints me is that nobody at the time thought to call out
DC for turning minor characters into tissue paper and exploiting
them for cheapjack nonsense.
Dear Captain: Regarding May 11th Q&A:
<<Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen: I hate to admit it, but I found
those ludicrous J.O. stories a guilty pleasure.>>
Are you aware how vulgar the above sentence is?
I need to get a life now. Thank you for the giggle.
Mm-hm. And what was your reaction to "Paste-Eater Pete" in Amalgam
Nowhere near as disgusted as my reaction
to the obnoxious structure of Identity Crisis and Avengers:
Disassembled, that’s for sure! Is he aware of how vulgar the former
is? And how do we really know he was turned off by the latter? Even
that’s long been in question. And with that, we turn to May 25,
Hey Cappy! Here's a final note about Triathlon being
a throwback to the '70s:
Sadly enough, he isn't a throwback at all. Believe it or
not, he is a very realistic character. Not in the '70s, but
right now. I know a LOT of people who talk just like him. I had
visitors to my message board who would denounce Triathlon as a
character, then go on to complain about the exact things he's
complaining about. It's uncanny to hear. Normally, though,
that's the kind of griping African-Americans reserve to do
around each other only, so I don't know how Busiek got a hold of
it, but he's dead on. I've worked with many African-Americans
who went on and on about how "the man" was keeping them down,
about how they were only hired because the employer HAD to hire
them, and how nobody in the workplace likes or respects them --
I must admit that I've been guilty of it myself, because
sometimes it does honestly feel that way. Other times, it's not
just a feeling, but a reality. I've had to lodge more than one
racial-discrimination complaint in offices where I've worked.
All of them were ignored. Racism is still alive and well in
Again, it's talk African-Americans typically only do
around each other so not many whites know about it. I think
Triathlon strikes such a nerve with so many people because he so
realistically portrays a side of society we'd all rather not
see. He'll have to acclimate to be an Avenger though, just like
all African-Americans have to swallow bitter pills and acclimate
in our lives every day, even when it's obvious we sometimes
aren't wanted because of our skin color. We're forced to ignore
a lot of ignorant and hurtful treatment and comments, and there
are times when you just can't smile it all away and turn the
other cheek and those are the times that bring out the Triathlon
in each of us. I think people need to put themselves in
Triathlon's shoes to fully understand where he's coming from,
but if you've never been the subject of discrimination, you
can't, therefore his anger is beyond comprehension. All you then
see is a jerk. Yeah, he's a jerk, but he's also hurt, angry and
defensive. He not striking out just to be difficult, rather he's
striking out because he feel he HAS to. All African Americans
have felt that way at one time or another. Triathlon's just the
"Inner-Anger Poster Child" right now. It's a feeling Blacks hate
having and Whites hate seeing, so as a result, everyone hates
Triathlon. At any rate, the anger Triathlon's putting out is
real and it should be brought out in the open so both sides can
attempt to come to terms with it. Ignoring it won't make it go
away. That, to me, makes Triathlon very important.
When he does come around, I hope Marvel doesn't completely
subjugate his personality. Every team needs a difficult member,
I think, to add dimension. Would the X-Men have been as
interesting if Wolverine hadn't been such a jerk back in the
early days? Then there's Guy Gardner -- he really added some
flavor to the JLA! All difficult members of teams come around,
and so will Triathlon, I'm betting. We'll see!
While, my soap box had been ground down to a fine pile of
saw dust, so I'd better get off it!
Thanks for the insight, […]! As you note, it's not something that
would normally occur to non-African-Americans, which makes it
worth discussion. Blacks in America have had a rough go of it for
centuries, so there's a lot of simmering anger and open wounds out
there that most of us -- white and Black -- prefer not to look at
On the flip side, as a white guy I'm privy to the private
grumblings of professional whites who feel that they're getting a
raw deal from "reverse" discrimination. They feel that they "turn
invisible" when job openings and promotions occur in favor of
African-Americans, who -- as you noted -- feel resented for it.
I guess it depends, as in so many things, on whose ox is getting
gored. But that's all to agree with your point -- Triathlon's
actions and reactions should provoke these very exchanges. We just
noted how blacks say such-and-so to each other, and whites do the
same, and everybody's angry but nobody's talking to each other.
What we need to do is keep a dialogue going, or else all we'll do
is continue to glare sullenly at each other across the Great
For my part, I took Triathlon to be an updated Hawkeye or
Quicksilver -- a guy who, for various reasons, has trouble
trusting or working with a team. Some of those reasons were
apparent, some seemed imagined (less so after your letter), some
seemed inherent to his personality -- and only Busiek knows where
he's going with this. Meantime, we get a great ride.
Thanks again for a POV not often discussed!
As interesting as the correspondent’s
letter is, no thanks can be offered to Smith for failing to honestly
address another subject not often discussed: how women have often
been mistreated in comics, and over-sexualization’s not even the
beginning. What is disturbing is when women are treated like filth
as seen in Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled. In fact, now
that recall, no, his alleged pan of the latter had nothing to do
with the story’s insulting angle to women. Come to think of it, I’m
not sure he really had an issue with the out-of-character renditions
in that Bendis-penned story either!
A sad reminder about Busiek is that, this whole tale
notwithstanding, he became more leftist as time went by. That’s a
sad thing of course, because his work on Astro City is pretty good,
and he just had to sour everything with his recent lefty blabber.
Triathlon, as noted, was largely abandoned after Busiek left the
Hey Captain Comics: I just wanted to let you know
that Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld was NOT based on a toy. Back
in the early '80s, there was a toy line that had characters
based on individual gems. While there may have been one that was
based on amethysts, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld was not taken
from these toys. Amethyst was an original creation of writers
Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn and artist Ernie Colon.
On the DC Comics Message Boards, there is a long thread
devoted to Amethyst and her history. On the thread Dan Mishkin,
one of Amethyst's creators, posts:
"In reviewing this message thread, I noticed a reference
to She-Ra and Golden Girl and a possible toy tie-in for
Amethyst. So just to set the record straight:
When we created Amethyst, neither She-Ra nor Golden Girl
was on the market, nor were we contemplating a toy at that time.
DC was ahead of the creative team, however, and seeing licensing
potential in the character, began discussions with Kenner even
before the first issue was published.
During our meetings with Kenner, it became clear that an
Amethyst line at action-figure size rather than Barbie size
could be a big hit. But since nobody had done a line of
four-inch fantasy fashion action figures for girls, Kenner
proceeded with caution (I wanted them to move faster, but hey,
it wasn't my money at risk). Unfortunately, when they did decide
to go ahead, a visit to the annual Toy Fair revealed that Mattel
and Galoob had beaten us to market, and the idea was shelved."
Captain Comics, if you want to double check that comment,
the link to the thread is
It should be on that page.
Glad to finally clear that up!
Thanks, [name withheld]!
I just think it’s a shame Amethyst
suffered so much misuse after the 80s ended. Something I doubt Smith
has any real issues with, given he never commented on the reboot and
its sloppy inclusion of a near-rape scene at the beginning of the
story that was dropped soon after. Here comes two letters in one:
Dear Captain: There is no one single smoking gun to
the decline of comic books. There are several, and to solve one
won't necessarily turn things around. It will take a concerted
effort by all companies to save the industry. (Note: any mention
of "kids" is primarily referring to young boys.)
1) PRICE -- Indeed this is the biggest factor. Soon the
regular price will be $2.25 and the "good stuff" costs at least
$4.95. Marvel and DC spent the last four decades turning fans
into completists, and now that's financially impossible for most
readers. Once you start saying "I can do without THAT title,"
then you soon realize you can pretty much do without them all
(at least on a regular basis). Soon, $10 will buy only FOUR of
the CHEAPEST comics available. And anyone who MIGHT be
interested in reading comics gets quickly turned off at the
price. "A six-part story for $15? I can get two 500-page novels
for that." The only realistic option today is to push Marvel's
"Monster" format. Give more for the money, even if it's mostly
reprints. The people the industry needs buying these books have
never read the old stuff anyway.
2) KIDS DON'T READ ANYMORE-- It's not that kids are
dumber, but there are so many more visual choices for
entertainment. Twenty years ago, no movie or cartoon or
videogame could possibly offer the unlimited imagery of comic
books. Prior to CGs, monsters ALWAYS looked fake, even in the
best movies. Now, it's the comics that look fake by comparison.
And never forget the movement -- we're talking about kids here.
But also, comics were the place to find all the great ideas.
Whole new mythologies awaited and nothing sparked a kids
imagination like a comic book. Now, mythologies are a dime a
dozen -- they're everywhere in every medium. Sadly enough, the
new mythologies come more from Pro Wrestling than anywhere else
(and wrestling is free on TV and you don't have to bother
reading it). The decline in numbers for comics has a lot to do
with there not being a new generation every five years or so.
Since the boom of '92, we should have had maybe two new
infusions of young blood as consumers and that's just not
3) COMICS ARE UNAPPROACHABLE-- Those who have the money
and the will to read find comics so convoluted and
self-referencing that they have a hard time getting started.
It's like beginning watching X-Files NOW. Also, (thankfully this
has lessened over the years) page layouts have become so
convoluted that kids can't make head or tails of how they're
supposed to read them. It's not good enough to put out Batman
Adventures because kids want BATMAN, the dark and gritty, just
as '70s kids wanted the Neal Adams version, not the TV version.
They want to feel they're reading "more grown-up" stuff, not kid
stuff ... but they don't want to spend all day figuring out the
layout. This problem seems to be adjusting itself, but more
thought should be given to it.
4) COMICS ARE UNAVAILABLE-- Maybe the second biggest
problem of the moment for comics is that they're locked up in a
closet that nobody looks in any more. I'm talking about comic
shops. Usedtabe (a much-used word from me) kids got their comics
by sneaking them into mom's grocery basket. Had they needed to
make a special stop at the comic-book store, most kids would
never have seen one. Today, a kid needs a parent, brother or
friend already in the hobby who has a car to take them. Comics
must return to the newsstands if they are to survive.
America-at-large sampled comics during the '92 boom and now
would like to forget about them. It's the comic industry's
responsibility to keep the drumbeat going, remain in the public
eye. The last eight years are undeniable. Almost nobody's
casually experimenting with comics anymore and that's because
they've forgotten comics even exist.
5) COMICS AREN'T COOL ANYMORE -- Usedtabe, the school-age
kids reading superhero comics were "hip," they were "in on"
something that other kids could be jealous of. Comics were a
subculture, a juvenile intelligencia, the
non-delinquent/non-popular clique. That was supplanted by
Playstations and PC games. Today, kids are jealous of those who
have videogame technology, and the new subculture is focused
around cheat codes and "naked" patches for Tomb Raider. To most
kids, there's just no "cool" factor to comic books. Keep in
mind, "Rock and Roll" died when kids saw their parents listening
to it; the kids then jumped on rap and thrash metal. Whatever
parents and teachers complain will "ruin kids' minds" is what
they'll cling to. Comics are just too acceptable to adults for
American kids to find rebellious or cool.
These are the problems with getting NEW blood into the
ranks. Each company has problems that need fixing if they are to
keep the readers they have. But that's another topic.
I fear Erik Larsen, in The Comics Journal, may be right.
Maybe comics are doomed and there's no way to save them. There
is a point where the dropping of sales will eventually close so
many shops that there will be too few shops open to order
product. Without sufficient alternative distribution, can there
be any other future but disaster for comics?
Food for thought, [withheld]. Here's another take:
Dear Cap: Yes! Finally I feel like I got my money's worth! Okay
so the art in the Batman story was a little weird at times and
the extra story of The Jacobian was even stranger it was still
awesome! The latest issue of Detective Comics (No. 746) brings
back that wonderful art of the quickie! Just those few extra
pages of something new and exciting make me look forward to
getting the next issue already. This is what I like in my
comics. If they are going to charge us an arm and a leg for
these than the least they can do is try and give us our moneys
I read the analogy about the videogame and I got to say
its just not the same. For one thing you can read a comic over
and over again but its still the same comic but videogames today
have level after level of action, and let's face it, if they
added a little more plot a videogame would be a comic book. But
for now the only way you could compare the two is if you put
Mario 64 on one table and every issue related to Batman's NML on
the other table. Kids don't see comics like we do. I think we
may have ruined it when we made them such collectibles. Kids use
to carry comics rolled up in their back pockets and trade with
their friends. They had that raggedy stack of books in their
bedroom they use to pull one out and read to avoid doing
homework. I used to read G.I. Joe 17 (I think) just to watch
Grunt punch Major Blood's lights out on a moving bus and then
joke about it as they take Blood to the ER. Now everything is
bagged and boxed. I shudder to think about it but I think the
best way to get kids to read comics is to publish five-six
titles at 50 cents instead of one at $2.50 and if they want to
beat the heck out of them, let them. And if the comic shops
don't want to carry them, fine, Wal-Mart and Kmart I am sure
would love to get kids asking their parents to take them to the
store to get some comics. Kids don't collect comics, they
consume and move on.
Whether video games have level after level
depends largely. Back in the early years of games, there were a lot
that would loop around endlessly. Even Tetris, a big favorite of
mine, could do this depending on what edition and which company made
it. But as time went by, various companies would simplify the games
a tad, and they’d end after a certain number of
levels/stages/rounds. For example, how about Double Dragon, the
hand-to-hand combat game that led to plenty of imitators, including,
most famously, Final Fight? After you’ve defeated the bosses and
such, they have an epilogue and come to an end, and if your point
score reaches the listed thresholds, you can type your initials if
you do it in time. Some of these games can become more monotonous as
a result, but at least today, there’s emulator systems online you
can use to play them for free, to compensate for a misspent youth!
On the subject of Larsen, if there’s no way to save comics per se,
maybe that’s because he isn’t being much help on his part. He’s a
leftist with questionable positions, and he’s also turned out a
pretty lame tale himself called The Savage Dragon. How is he
availing when he does some pretty dumb things himself that aren’t
worth the effort?
Dear Cap: You wrote:
<<Or the entire "New Universe" saga. Or ...>>
I just encountered a few of those in sorting through my boxes
for sale (the wife allows me to keep some, but not all, in her
desperate bid to convert our garage to, um, an actual garage). I
noticed that John Byrne finished up Star Brand. From this,
shouldn't we have seen the shape of things to come from him?
(Not that it would have mattered -- in the late 'eighties I was
such a Byrne-head I even bought his stupid Fear Book novel.)
Yup, I actually looked forward to Byrne's Star Brand at the time
(which, as I recall, seemed to bear more than a passing similarity
to a certain Emerald Gladiator). Maybe because I was also a
Byrne-head, I thought Star Brand was the best of a bad bunch. I
wonder what I'd think if I went back and read those now? Would I
see the shape of things to come, or would it still be a
passing-fair comic book? Given what I've read since, could I even
The short answer is “no”. He wasn’t
objective on Identity Crisis, he didn’t take an objective approach
to Civil War either, so what good is he as a columnist? Why, how do
we know he wouldn’t ignore some of the more questionble takes on the
female cast in Byrne’s writing? For example, there’s West Coast
Avengers and the wretched tale where Scarlet Witch was reverted to a
villainess, the worst part being her transformation into a
short-haired cartoon vamp. What ruined the story was how the female
cast was depicted so bizarrely ineffective – certainly in combat
situations – and Wanda’s scratching Wonder Man across the chest was
disgusting. The whole tale has some pretty embarrassing backstage
history accompanying it as well, yet it may not matter to Major
Moonbat. It certainly didn’t matter to one of his co-writers of
recent on his website.
Captain Cee: Your 12 May 2000 column, "Some
superheroes go south", shows you flunked U.S. geography. You
wrote, "... Wonder Woman makes no bones about living in
Washington. But you'll note that none of these towns, real or
imagined, are located below the Mason-Dixon line."
The Mason-Dixon line is the border between the States of
Maryland (to the south) and Pennsylvania (to the north).
Washington, D.C., carved out of the southern edge of Maryland,
lies about 50 miles SOUTH of the Mason-Dixon line.
I'll leave you with what JFK once said about DC, "Southern
efficiency; Northern hospitality."
It's worse than that, […]: I KNEW that Washington was below the
M-D line -- and just fudged it. D.C., while technically a
"Southern" city, doesn't reflect any of the regional
characteristics that make up a Southern city. (Except for those
Godawful sweltering summers. Great idea, building a city in a
swamp!) Anyway, I put in a whole paragraph explaining that
Washington didn't count as a Southern city for the purposes of the
discussion, but my wife and editor (in that order) convinced me
the distinction was too subjective and ephemeral to waste time on,
and should just be passed over without comment since most folks
don't think of D.C. as particularly Southern anyway. (In fact,
most Americans couldn't locate D.C., Virginia or their home state
with an Atlas, but that's beside the point.)
But, alas, you caught me. I'd offer you a No-Prize, but I think
that idea's been taken. Anyway, I removed the offending line.
Whatever, when it comes to Smith, I
wouldn’t even offer him that much! And contrary to what he says, I
can think of District of Columbia as a southern city, if it matters.
Dear Captain: I have found a decent site dedicated to
toys -- comic-related ones. I don't know if you have seen it
yet, but it has been getting me all quivery thinking about all
the DC stuff coming out. I love my comics. Don't get me wrong,
but I have become almost as addicted to the comic-related action
figures. I have been a DC fan almost my entire life, and spend
almost all my comic budget on DC and its related holdings. I am
very pleased with the DC Direct toys and the KB exclusive JLA
figures. Unfortunately, it is killing me with the added cost of
The site is www.toymania.com/main.shtml
You were the one who clued me in to the Martian Manhunter
JLA figure. Now I also have the 10-inch (?) figure. Anyhow,
check out the site & tell me what you think. See ya in the
Thanks, [withheld]! I've added it to my links!
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when
I read about somebody foolish enough to spend time on toys, when the
comics and keeping their writing quality healthy is more important.
<<That's a good argument, but when have comics EVER been
thought of as anything but a children's medium? It's not like
superheroes BROUGHT comics to that level -- they were always
there. And comics did turn away from superheroes in the '50s --
and nearly died on the vine.>>
See, this is what I'm not so sure of. The last thing I can
claim to be is a comics historian, but from various things I've
read, my impression was that comics in the '30s and '40s were
read by people of all different ages. I can't by any means prove
this, but that's what I seem to have gleaned over the years ...
For just one small example, I thought that Pogo comics -- both
the strip and the comic books -- were read largely by adults, do
to the serious/political overtones in them. I thought comic
books reached, to a greater extent than from the '50s on, more
of a "the whole family" audience. And one thing I do know is
that EC eventually concluded that the majority of their comics
were read by men in their 20s.
<<Lots of different genres have been tried in comics -- war,
Western, crime,romance, even piracy -- but the superhero soap
opera was the only genre that lasted. To paraphrase Kurt Busiek's
immortal words: "Superheroes aren't to blame for the decline of
the industry -- they were just the Last Man Standing as the
industry declined around them." To use MY immortal words, to blame
superheroes for the decline of the industry is like blaming
survivors of the Titanic for the existence of icebergs.>>
But the decline of superhero comics in the '50s was by no means
the only major component of what made the industry suffer in the
'50s. Not by a longshot. Even before Kefauver and Wertham and
the irate moms of America, there was a strong institutional,
governmental anti-comics rumble which that unholy trinity
benefited from. The government was paying real attention to
comics in the '50s, for American comic books were big hits
overseas, and they weren't exactly towing the American Cold War
line. In a time when America wanted to show why it should be
accepted as a kind, just worldly leader, American comics were
basking in racism and xenophobia. Even The New York Times
reported and commented on this pre-Wertham anti-comic-books bent
What I'm trying to say is that the collapse of comics
after their '30s and '40s heyday is a complex thing, much more
than just a case of "Well, superheroes were out, so of course
the whole industry suffered grandly." There were forces at work
that went beyond the simple question of genre. Content and
ideology got comics in hot water with the government, for
But when comics basically went to the grave, not only did
they do so with a "they've corrupted our children" reputation
that characterized them more than ever as "kiddie stuff" in the
public eye, but they also did indeed rise, Phoenix-like, on the
back of superheroes -- further solidifying their "kiddie stuff"
label. This did not open the door for comics to be seen as a
medium that might invite adult readers, and I do honestly think
that this is a notable reason why most people stay away from
comics like they have cooties nowadays.
I don't think it's as simple as saying that today's
non-superhero fail to sell really well because people don't want
them in and of themselves. I think there are greater forces --
an Image, you might say -- working against them. And I think
that in many cases that image is what prevents people from even
considering the books; not the books themselves.
<<I think that the format of comics and superheroes just
naturally go hand-in-hand: Colorful, larger-than-life characters
on a huge canvas that are eye-popping and pulse-pounding in their
native habitat, but look just silly in TV/movies and read somewhat
juvenile in prose. On the other hand, other genres don't work as
well in comics (or work better in other media). Romance novels
sell like nobody's business, but in comics romance stories come
across as talking heads. Science fiction can be an adrenline
junkie's dream on film, but those spaceships just don't look as
big and imposing on the flat page of comics.>>
I think this is more a function of the creators' input and the
publishers' demands and the limits imposed by the fact that
comic books are, for most companies, a business first, before
being an art form -- or even just an entertainment form. I
firmly believe that comics can do anything and do it great. Give
me Walt Simonson sci-fi and I don't need to go to no movie
theater. But does this mean comics DO do anything great? No.
Sometimes, yeah. There are probably examples to be found in each
and every genre. But most comics fail in satisfying in almost
all genres, because most comics aren't well done, and so many
are excreted primarily to meet a business demand. Theoretically
it doesn't have to be this way -- like I said, with really
talented creators involved, naive or not, I don't care -- I
think comics can do anything.
Talking head comics can be done right. There's a sequence
in Dave McKean's Cages in which a lonely, slightly senile old
lady rambles to the "camera." It's done almost entirely in shots
of her upper body, head, hands, even just her shadow. And it's
incredible cartooning. Sadly funny and moving.
Comics can do anything. It's just that so often they
don't. Heck, I won't argue with you that superheroes are very
happily suited to comic books. I love superhero comic books, and
the alchemy between the first part of the phrase and the second
holds a gut-deep appeal for me and probably always will. But
even tons of superhero comics don't succeed in their genre,
because tons of superhero comics are crap. And I'd probably put
forward the argument that superheroes aren't necessarily
"especially" suited for comics books so much as they are
immediately suited to comic books. Just slap a colorful costume
guy on some paper and you can often get at least a cheap, fun,
piece-of-junk thrill. Even if the comic really just stinks!!!
But with other genres it might just take more time and
effort. Partially because the desired effect is more ambitious
than a cheap thrill, perhaps. Or just more talent, maybe. Which
I think a lot of creators (in both the mainstream and
alternative branches of comicdom, I might add) just don't have.
There are tons of horrible prose authors out there. There are
tons of bad singers, songwriters, actors, filmmakers, etc. Why
should comic-book workers be any different? I'd say the edge
that some alternafolks have is a greater degree of control over
the work, a greater artistic freedom. If they don't have the
skill or talent to back them up, they can still flop on their
faces, but at least in some situations they have fewer of the
demands of the publisher and marketplace.
<<Someone was wondering what was up with Grell. Well, in the
latest issue of Comic Book Artist, he is interviewed and reports
that he has written a Sable novel (I think it's already out; can't
remember) and that he is planning on returning to writing (and I
believe drawing) Jon Sable: Freelance as a comic book. I believe
he said it would be an ongoing series, and he definitely is
determined to do it, but I don't think he said how close he is to
actually getting any of it published yet. People may want to pick
up CBA 8 to see if Grell talks more about what he's doing lately
-- I haven't read the whole interview yet.>>
I finished the interview. He doesn't get as explicit in
spelling out his Sable comic book plans as I thought he did, but
he definitely plans on bringing his man back to the comic-book
pages -- and the implication was there that he would be drawing.
Which would be nice. I like Grell. It's not that he's really
such a swell artist. His rather ... personal vision of anatomy,
human proportions and body language has been commented on many
times. He lets himself get sloppy in general, too, ofttimes. But
I just enjoy seeing his stuff, I dunno. I think part of it now
is that I've discovered and love the work of George Evans, who I
think Grell is a lot like. Just the lesser talent. And even
Evans, I've noticed, could have his issues with the human form
at times, creating a greater parallel between the two artists.
So I like seeing that connection when I read Grell. But I really
don't know how to explain it. It's often not all that
technically good -- sometimes it's a downright mess! -- but I
just enjoy looking at his work. And I loved Sable for really
being his baby. A wholly-realized Grell production.
<< I enjoyed some of the Bacchus stuff I picked up about a
decade ago, then my local comics shop stopped carrying it (I
thought it was canceled). Then Westfield started carrying it (or I
started noticing that they carried it), and now I'm afraid I've
missed too much to catch up. Are there TPBs available to get me in
There are TPBs coming out the wazoo. Immortality Isn't Forever
($9.95); The Gods of Business ($9.95); Doing the Islands with
Bacchus ($17.95); The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show ($8.50); Earth,
Water, Air and Fire ($9.95); King Bacchus ($12.95). In that
order, I think. Out this month, supposedly is 1001 Nights of
Bacchus. There's also non-Bacchus collections: Graffiti Kitchen
($4.95); The Dance of Lifey Death ($4.95). Included in these
volumes is his autiobio/psuedo-autibio Alec stuff. You can get
them thru Top Shelf's web site if you have to. Years back I
believe there was a big Alec collection; don't know if it's
still in print -- since Campbell doesn't advertise it in his
latest issue, I'd say not.
Avoid Alan Moore and Campbell's The Birth Caul at all
costs. Unbearably pretentious diarrhea of the keyboard. And I
have a pretty high threshold for pretentious stuff, too.
Although, I will say, Campbell's work is absolutely beautiful.
But, again, I looked thru that latest issue, and it has no
Bacchus material in it. Right now it's very much a short-strip
anthology Avoid avoiding From Hell at all costs. It's about as
good as comics can get.
<<The Galactus/Terrax/Sphinx storyline ran primarily from
Fantastic Four 210-214, mostly with Byrne/Sinnott art. Byrne did
some issues off and on (usually with Sinnott inks) for the next
year or so, but where his run is really considered to have begun
is issue 232, with a really terrific story called "Back to
Basics!" He was fully behind the helm through issue (gulp!)
Yeah, I've got all of the Byrne run, when he really owned the
book, from No. 232. I think I may not have that last one he
wrote and supposedly contributed to the art in some way; it not
only looked horrible, but it didn't look like Byrne. So I might
have skipped it. That might have been No. 294. Or maybe I
stopped with No. 293 because it was the last one Byrne had any
input in, even though the story continued in No. 294. Sadly,
that wonderful run was just about the last decent thing Byrne
had in him, I think. I guess I sorta liked his Superman stuff,
but, eh. And even before he left FF, and especially when he was
on Alpha Flight, he just really came close to even trying with
his artwork at all. I always call that his "slap a few scratches
on some toilet paper and turn it" period, and I don't really
think he's ever left it. Still, though I am among the many who
consider him a laughingstock, I do love some of his old stuff, I
must say. And that FF run is still special to me. And that
first, Diablo story was swell.
I also have 209 and 211-231, and enjoy them. Heck, I'm the
only person on the face of the planet that had fun with the
Anyway, the thing is, the Xandar/Skrull storyline
completely segued into the Terrax/Galactus/Sphinx one that Byrne
began with in No. 209. So I was wondering how far back I had to
go to get to the beginning of that story (which hopefully has a
definite beginning, so I don't feel compelled to go back even
further!). But I guess you've cleared up for me that No. 209 was
the first Byrne/Sinnott issue.
Oops! No, I misunderstood the question. I took the introduction of
Terrax (issue 211) as what you were looking for. Actually, the
storyline began in issue 204, with "Suzerain Adora" arriving by
teleport beam from Xandar in the Andromeda Galaxy looking for help
-- followed closely by the Super Skrull. The FF (minus the pouting
Torch) take off to help and continue through issue 205 and 206
(the latter introducing The Sphinx, Nova, The Comet, Crime-Buster,
Powerhouse, Diamond-Head and Doctor Sun to the mix). Issue 207
followed up on the Torch subplot back on Earth. Issue 208,
however, gave us The Sphinx gaining all the knowledge of the
Living Computers of Xandar and becoming muy macho. Reed vowed to
recruit Galactus to stop him, leading into the issue which you
already have (which DOES appear to be Byrne's first -- unless he
did some fill-ins prior to issue 200, which is as far back as I
About superheroes and comics: I think we're arguing at
cross-purposes, [name withheld], because I agree with most of your
points. Particularly in that the decline of the comic-book
industry IS a complex thing, which is why I'm unwilling to point
to Superguys and say, "It's all their fault." In addition to the
points you mention, there was also the rise of TV in the '50s, the
abrupt loss of the captive military audience in '45 and again in
'53, and especially the industry's horrendously grievous
self-inflicted wound of reducing page count (and profitability) to
the point where the primary magazine distribution system in the
country lost interest in carrying comics.
It's just way too complex a thing to lay solely at the feet of
What about the self-censorship, just to
get a couple of rival companies out of their way back in 1954, when
the CCA was formed following the whole Wertham debacle? Why, what
about Wertham’s own leftism, something a lot of modern leftists
supposedly concerned about the decline and fall of the medium seem
uninterested in examining?
Dear Cap: Just read your latest review on the
Avengers in Memphis. This was great! So many times us
Southerners are stereotyped, Busiek, of course, appears a bit
When was the last time Marvel was in Tennessee? Off the
top of my head, I'd say it was Captain America 172 when the
Banshee was assaulted by the Sentinel of Liberty shortly after
he purchased Merle Haggard tickets! Sheesh!
The Captain America story you mention would have been around 1974.
Professor X recruited Banshee from a performance of the Grand Ole
Opry in Giant-Size X-Men 1 in 1975. After that, I can't think of a
another time Marvel set a story in Tennessee until Avengers 28 --
25 years later!
So many times conservatives are
stereotyped to boot, yet neither Smith nor the correspondent seem
Dear Cap: Once again, it seems that a big comics
publisher is giving the shabby treatment to one of its greatest
creators! Archie Comics has fired Dan DeCarlo, the man that
defined the Archie look we all recognize to this day!
I personally think that this is rotten! DeCarlo deserves
better treatment! What are your thoughts?
I am absolutely stunned. Just shocked. And after Silberkleit made
such a stink about how Archie represents "heartland American
values" and wrapped himself in the Bible and the Constitution when
Melissa Joan Hart appeared in Maxim. I think I'm gonna be sick.
Here's more from [name withheld] on the subject:
Hello again, Cap: I was so infuriated with how Archie Comics
handled this situation that I e-mailed Mr. Silberkleit about it.
Below is the basic body of that e-mail, which I present as an
open letter. BTW, I completely agree about the hypocrisy of
Archie's publisher in regard to the comparison between what has
happened with Dan DeCarlo and the Maxim deal. Even when Mr.
Silberkleit was going on about those "heartland American values"
he was spinning Ms. Hart's words around. I read her interview,
and she made it clear that she DID NOT speak for or as Sabrina
in that interview. That's not what Mr. Silberkeit led people to
believe. But I digress, here is the message I sent to Archie's
<<I read on the Comic Book Resources web page's news
for May 18, 2000, that Archie Comics has fired Dan DeCarlo
rather than compensate him for creating Josie and the Pussycats
(currently in the stages to become a major motion picture), and
co-creating Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.>>
<<I find this to be an offensive tactic to silence
him! This man created a style that has defined the Archie "look"
for over 40 years! The same "look" that graces Archie's website,
promotional art, and, well ... everything that represents the
Archie characters in a cartoon form.>>
<<I am certain that the general public is not privy
to all the details in this matter, but on the surface it stinks!
As a comic book retailer, I have supported Archie comics in the
past. I always thought that Archie comics represented good,
wholesome qualities with strong, moral ethics. There is nothing
moral or ethical about depriving a man in advanced years of his
due credit, monetary and otherwise, for creating successful
properties that Archie continues to benefit from. Dan DeCarlo is
no hack artist that Archie can easily dismiss or toss away! He
has breathed life into Archie characters for nearly a
half-century! I feel that it is no exaggeration to suggest that
Mr. DeCarlo is a PRIME reason that the Archie characters have
lasted to this day! His look for the characters is the look that
all American children recognize as the "Archie" look! He created
Josie and The Pussy Cats and co-created Sabrina and the best
that Archie could do for this man is hand him walking papers?
<<It is a sad day when the publisher of Archie
comics would cast aside an elderly man who defined Archie comics
for three generations. Mr. Silberkleit may have the money, but
he had the heart! I hope that Mr. Silberkleit can sleep
comfortably on that money knowing what he did to that
To which Silberkleit replied:
<<Archie Comics has always acknowledged that Dan DeCarlo
participated in the original creation of the Josie property as
part of a joint effort by Dan and Richard Goldwater (the son of
one of the co-founders of Archie Comics) who, on behalf of
Archie Comics, commissioned Dan in the early 1960s to work with
him on the creation of a new set of teen-age characters on a
work-for-hire basis. (Additional creative contributions to the
Josie property were made later by Archie Comics co-founder John
Goldwater.) The joint participation of Richard and Dan in the
original creation of the Josie property was publicly
acknowledged by Archie Comics by the placement of the legend "by
Dan 'n' Dick" on the covers of many issues of Josie
<<At the same time, over the last 30 years, Archie
Comics has consistently exercised the rights of an exclusive
copyright owner of the Josie property. Archie Comics has
registered and renewed the copyrights in the Josie comics in its
own name, licensed third parties to use the Josie property in
animated cartoons and on other merchandise, and otherwise acted
as the sole owner of the Josie property.>>
<<Throughout all these years, and during all of
Archie Comics publishing and ancillary activities, Dan never
raised any issue regarding his role in the joint creation or
regarding Archie Comics ownership of the Josie property.>>
<<In recent years, Archie Comics elected to begin to
make voluntary payments to Dan in recognition of his
participation, on a work-for-hire basis, in the development of
not only the Josie property, but also the Sabrina the Teenage
Witch property. (The Sabrina property was conceived by Archie
Comics employees who commissioned George Gladir to write the
first Sabrina story and Dan DeCarlo to pencil it.)>>
<<Under the circumstances, we were dumbfounded when,
in November 1999, Dan had his attorney write to us to raise, for
the first time, an issue regarding ownership of the Josie
property. We assumed that Dan and his attorney simply did not
understand that, under the copyright law, as a commissioned
work, Dan's contribution to the creation of the Josie property
constituted a work-for-hire owned by Archie Comics. We met with
Dan several times in an effort to amicably resolve the
situation. Unfortunately, Dan responded by having his attorney
<<The allegations that Dan's attorney put into his
Complaint bear no relation to the historical circumstances
surrounding the creation of the Josie property. Nevertheless,
even after Dan sued us, we tried to continue to work with Dan.
Subsequently, however, Dan's attorney has taken such aggressive
and unreasonable positions in the litigation that, under the
circumstances, we have sadly been left with no alternative but
to terminate our relationship with Dan. It simply is not
possible for us to continue to work with someone who is pursuing
such baseless legal claims against our company.>>
<<We at Archie Comics have enjoyed our relationship
with Dan over the years and respect him as one of the best
cartoonist in the industry. We feel terrible that after all
these years and at Dan's stage in life we have had to sever our
relations with Dan. However, there is just no way we could
continue to buy work from an artist who is pressing such
baseless claims against us.>>
<<I hope that you are now aware of the circumstances
that regrettably left us no choice but to discontinue our
relationship with Dan.>>
<<Further inquiries regarding this matter should be
directed in writing to our legal counsel, [withheld].>>
<<Very truly yours,>>
<<Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
I figured that I'd present this to you, Cap, in
the spirit of giving "equal time" to Archie Comics.
Thanks, [withheld]. I have to give Silberkleit props for answering
-- he could have blown you off or just referred you to the
attorney. But it still stinks.
Make what you will of that whole deCarlo
debacle, ditto Silberkleit himself, but the company in its current
state does not look healthy with kooks like Jon Goldwater and Nancy
Silberkleit in charge, nor the turf war that’s been taking place.
Something Mr. Smith’s been largely oblivious to, as he embraced all
that the late Mr. Silberkleit didn’t, and deCarlo likely didn’t
either. It’s not just that whole frustrating affair at Archie that
Dear Cap: I've been pondering Stan Lee for a few
weeks now. Such ponderings have been generated by his
involvement with DC Comics, as well as his StanLee.net website.
I'm sorry to say this, and no doubt such an opinion will get me
stoned by raving crowds, but his work is poor. Very poor indeed.
I've suffered watching his 7th Portal and The Accuser -- both of
which are awful. The writing on these stories is horrendous, and
not only that I'm sure Stan narrates some of them as well. These
go down about as well as his narration on all the other early
I think the highlight of the entire site is the evil clone
section. I never realized Stan was into heavy bondage -- at his
age, I'm amazed he isn't popping handfuls of Viagra. Now this
whole DC/Stan Lee thing is a sad state of affairs. Newsarama
reported that ."There is not another single person that we would
let do this with our characters," DC president and editor in
chief Jenette Kahn is quoted as saying."
I personally can name at least five writers who would do a
far better job than Lee on this project -- Alan Moore, Grant
Morrison, Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennnis ... I could
Sorry I'm just venting.
Actually, I've mentioned on the site a time or two that I'm not
expecting a second "Marvel Age of Comics." In fact, the last two
times I remember Stan taking an active role in a series was Savage
She-Hulk No. 1 and Ravage 2099 -- both of which had to be majorly
re-tooled to make 'em workable.
But it's still an Event of unprecedented magnitude, and in a
perfect world would result in the firing of some of those suits at
Marvel who keep shooting the company in the foot. The mere FACT of
it oughtta have Marvel sweating, which is good enough for me. And,
what the hey? It's a one-time deal that might just be fun.
Gee, why should we take the word of a guy
who’s not very critical of Dan Buckley for how he runs Marvel, and
never publicly panned Bill Jemas for his equally bad dealings with
the former House of Ideas?
And I don’t think any of the names the correspondent mentions would
make a good substitute for Lee, not even Miller, no matter how much
I respect him today politically.
With Planetary No. 10 Warren Ellis accomplished what
the Legion of Doom couldn't -- killing Superman, Green Lantern
and Wonder Woman before they could begin their careers.
No. 10 was the first issue of the title I've read, but I
loved Ellis's homage to the Challenge of the Super Friends
episode which featured the origin of the aforementioned super
trio. In that episode Luthor's Legion of Doom discovered the
secret origins of the Man of Steel, the Amazon Princess and the
Emerald Gladiator and traveled back in time to interfere with
their beginnings, so the heroes would never be. Of course, the
other Super Friends step in and upset the Legion of Doom's
plans, but not on Earth Ellis. Planetary No. 10 is like the
Silver Age meets the Twilight Zone. A very fun read.
I quite agree, although it was kinda depressing. Meanwhile, over
in Authority, Jack Hawksmoor & Co. meet the Avengers, only
thinly disguised and brutish beyond belief. I'm enjoying both
tremendously, but I have to wonder what both books will do when
they run out of old comics and pulp fiction to lampoon?
I can’t answer that, but I can say that,
when Mr. Smith’s column is cancelled, it’ll be a blessing. And
thumbs down to Planetary! Coming up next is June 1, 2000:
Hey, Cap. How is it going? Do you know that
Humanoides Associes, the biggest publisher of SF comics in
France has now a North American division? They have been
publishing hardcover comics by extremely talented European
creators like Enki Bilal, Alessandro Jodorowski and Juan Gimenez
in the U.S. for months, but it seems like NO ONE noticed.
That is a shame, since comics like the "Saga of
Metabarons" (published in the U.S. in an unexpensive comics
format) are as good, if not better, than anything in U.S. comics
these days. They even hired Travis Charest (Wildcats) to do some
work for them!
It's been some time since European comics have been
published in the U.S., so I think that you should write
something about that.
There have been some stabs at European comics in the U.S. NBM
Publishing, for example, regularly reprints European graphic
novels, and recently Dark Horse experimented with digest-sized
reprints of Nathan Never, Dylan Dog and Martin Mystery from Italy.
I'd certainly like to see more, though.
If there’s any import from Europe I can’t
stand, it’s the Smurfs. No longer will I waste my time on those
marxist metaphors, with Brainy Smurf an apparent allusion to Trotsky
and Papa Smurf a stand-in for Karl Marx. There are some gems on that
continent, but who knows if they’ll be picked, or ever have been?
Dear Cap: I was checking out AOL's posts again. While
I was on the BYRNE WARD, I came across a post from a fellow that
mentioned an article in St. Louis Riverfront news called, "Why
do women in comics become Women in Refrigerators?" and written
by Robert Wilonsky. This poster asked John Byrne about some
comments in that article made by Mark Waid. I decided to check
out the Riverfront's Online site to see if there really was such
an article. There is, and here's a link:
St. Louis Riverfront Times Online --
Pretty interesting article, overall. I thought you'd find
it interesting, as well. Here's a cut-n-paste of a post, with
POSTER: The writer of the article was condemning the
sad state of affairs for women in comics. Nothing new here.
But the thing that caught my eye is what the professionals are
quoted as saying. John Byrne was one of them, and his quote
seems fairly legitimate (if they are quoting him in context),
but Mark Waid's quote is interesting. Of course, some of the
other information in the article is wrong, such as (that) a
recent incarnation of Wonder Woman "is powerless and wearing
an outfit not much bigger than a magic lariat." But the thing
that gets me is a statement by Mark Waid. (And the paper calls
this the obvious explanation for why comics treat women
poorly.) They say, he says, that most fans of or in comics
social outcasts who hate people, can't get laid, keep
girlfriends and are ticked off at them.
I can't help but wonder if writer feels this way
about his audience, then why's he in the field? Then again, I
wonder if they quoted him right. Oh, the other seemingly
biggest explaination for the treatment of women are writers
going through divorces.
JOHN BYRNE: Sigh. You know, I've come to wonder
if such things as WW2, Vietnam, Watergate, Monicagate and all
the other colorful events of the 20th Century really happened,
or happened as we think they did. After all, I read about all
of them in the newspaper, and if the articles published in
newspapers about things with which I am well acquainted (such
as the comic-book industry) are to be taken as any sort of
example, all those other articles must be equally (i.e.,
almost totally) wrong, too.
Although the quote from Waid sounds like him.
I read the article, and I must say the writer was bit harsh. On
the other hand, I've often remarked about the "Gwen Stacy
Syndrome" -- where girlfriends/wives are arbitrarily killed
because the writer simply doesn't know what to do with them. In
fact, I once answered a Q&A about dead girlfriends, and the
list I compiled (which was nowhere near comprehensive) ran into 30
or 40 names. (Heck, Sub-Mariner alone had three entries!)
I’ve read Mr. Smith’s reply, and I must
say he’s more than a bit weak and pretentious. After all, he threw
away even this much after he praised Identity Crisis, and I’ll never
tire of noting this.
I find Byrne’s comment more than a bit disgusting, since it runs the
gauntlet of history denial. But then, as I’ve long been aware, Byrne
did go downhill since the late 1990s more than ever before.
Dear Cap: In regard to Astronauts in Trouble:
Thoroughly enjoyed the first series, which was "Live from
the Moon." If you get a chance, check it out. You have to give
credit to a guy that publishes his first series entirely out of
his own pocket. A series which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It's that sense of wonder that the title gives back to sci
fi that I loved.
I'm just a sucker for sci fi ... I just picked up the
Flash Gordon serials from 1936 on DVD. Iguanas fighting is damn
fine viewing :)
Wouldn't you know it, my local shop was sold out of the AiT TPB --
and during a sale at that! I'll try to remember to order one next
time I indulge in online shopping.
And, not only are iguanas fine viewing, but ducks are fine dining.
GAIR-TRUDE! GAIR-TRUDE! VAIR IS GAIR-TRUDE???
He didn’t deserve to get any
copies of AIT, far as I’m concerned.
Hi, Cap: This is my theory and observations about the
alleged decline in the number of children reading comic books. I
felt motivated enough to share:
It's highly likely that one of the major reasons kids
don't consume more comic books (or other reading material) is
because somewhere in their development adults simply failed to
reinforce reading behavior. There's no excuse for it.
The best time to influence a young mind is before he (or
she) consciously realizes that he's emulating adult behavior or
seeking approval. If you're involved with a child early enough
in his development, he naturally picks up on your actions and
follows suit. Reading bedtime stories, for example, is not only
an excellent way to bond with someone you love, but also teaches
BY EXAMPLE that reading is a valuable, enjoyable activity. Later
in his/her adolescence, he'll begin to make his/her own
decisions. But previous experiences and emotional connections
will naturally draw his attention in certain directions.
Additionaly, casual reinforcements will help a developing mind
make appropriate choices.
If, instead, you spend five evenings each week in front of
a television (ostensibly to drown out psychic static accumulated
from a hard day at work), children have absolutely no reason to
pick up a magazine, book or newspaper on their own.
Conversations about the latest Friends episode or setting the
VCR permeate their brains -- as do commercials for videogames,
movies and expensive designer sports shoes.
I'm not lecturing to you, Cap, because I know you're an
intelligent, socially conscious person who knows better already.
And I don't fault the comic-book store owner or rare customer
who tries to interact with youths when they come in the store.
But it bugs the dickens out of me to hear so many other
people complain about the inability of comic-book companies to
capture a young market when I've seen so many of those people
ignore their own responsibilities. I urge your readers to look
closely at the environments children live in, not only their own
offspring, but also their nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids,
visitors, etc. We must also examine our intergenerational
conversations for references to books and other reading
"Read a good book lately?" But why stop there? We should
be trying to subtly influence other adults to do the same, once
again leading by example. Don't just do this once or twice and
feel self-righteously proud that you've done your job -- repeat
it every day, naturally, unself-consciously. Set the standard. I
know that individually, we each try a little here and there and
then complain later that nothing seems to ever make a
difference. But be patient -- it's going to take time and
constant effort to reverse such a big trend.
We are the template on which children create their own
Thank you for letting me vent in your forum.
Thanks for your thoughts, […]. Good advice, but doubtless the
people who need it most will heed it least. Anyway, I've posted
you to see what responses it sparks.
The correspondent who wrote this was a
very pretentious leftist. So much you gotta wonder if he really
meant what he said, because he ignored his own responsibilities to
the world at large. That is, he took a very J. Jonah Jameson and
Bethany Snow-ish path as a reporter. And, he even upheld mature
storytelling at all costs! That kind of clown belongs on a funny
<<Kids don't see comics like we do. I think we may
have ruined it when we made them such collectibles. Kids use to
carry comics rolled up in their back pockets and trade with their
Y'know, I think [name withheld] may have stumbled upon an
important factor in why kids don't read comics anymore! As a
dealer, what kids I do get seem only interested in a book's
potential value, and even a parent accompanying the child will
tell them not to open the comic if he were to buy it, because it
will be "collectible" someday.
This way of thinking may have actually given the average
child the assumption that collectibility is the only reason to
buy a comic. Some children may not want to bother with a hobby
where they believe they must always handle the product with kid
gloves, so to speak.
That is one possiblie factor in the declining readership
of recent years.
<<I actually looked forward to Byrne's Star Brand at the
time (which, as I recall, seemed to bear more than a passing
similarity to a certain Emerald Gladiator). Maybe because I was
also a Byrne-head, I thought Star Brand was the best of a bad
I, too, was a Byrne-head (perhaps we can start a club for
recovering Byrne-heads) and I also bought Star Brand. I also
thought it was the best of the drek that was Marvel's "New
Universe," but that's not saying much. I found Byrne's issues
too depressing. His stories dealt with the aftermath of the Pitt
storyline in which Star Brand had obliterated Pittsburgh. It
was, up to that point, the first time I quit collecting a John
Byrne title once I had started it.
[name withheld] writes:
<<Now this whole DC/Stan Lee thing is a sad state of
affairs. Newsarama reported that "There is not another single
person that we would let do this with our characters," DC
President and Editor in Chief Jenette Kahn is quoted as saying."
I personally can name at least five writers who would do a far
better job than Lee on this project -- Alan Moore, Grant Morrison,
Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennnis ... I could go on>>
Ah, but then it wouldn't be the media sensation it is. Love
him, hate him, or feel indifferent about him, Stan Lee IS Mr.
Marvel. Period. And, Mr. Marvel coming to DC to rewrite its
characters is mind-blowing, to say the least. The truth is that
whether or not Stan Lee can still spin a good yarn is moot to
DC. They know that they have a major coup in getting Stan Lee to
write anything, good or bad, and that it will make more money
than probably anything since the "Death of Superman."
Stan Lee was a great comics writer in his heyday. I dare
say that his average story from the '60s can still run rings
around an average comic story of today, excepting topical
events, then-current slang and such. What one must realize is
that the comics of today are the way they are in good part due
to Stan's writing. It's easy for someone today, who has
benefited from nearly 40(!) years of comic writing stemming from
Stan's work, to dismiss that writing as simple or corny. To get
a proper perspective, one must think about the writing compared
with what was out at the time it was written. Context is
important to appreciating why a trendsetter was a trendsetter.
Believe me, it isn't nostalgia when I say Stan is "The
Man" when it comes to comics! Yes, his later work is sub-par,
but I believe he didn't put his heart into it. He left his
titles in other hands and became detached from the flow of
things at Marvel.
Ravage 2099 -- well, that just blows ...
<<Amazingly, he's (Bat-Mite) made some
post-Crisis "serious" appearances. You mentioned his appearance in
Superman/Batman: Generations 3 (1999) but he was also a Mr.
Mxyzptlk-created Bat-imp in Book Six of the 10-issue World's
Finest miniseries (also 1999). Also, he was imagined by a drug
addict in Legends of the DC Universe 38 (1992) -- or WAS he
imagined? The Batman: Mitefall one-shot in 1995 followed much the
same lines. He also had a cameo on one of Bruce Wayne's computer
screens in Kingdom Come No. 2. I won't mention his appearance in
Ambush Bug 3, since we all know that stuff's all made up.>>
Both Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk will also be starring in World's
Funnest, a one-shot special written by Evan (Milk and Cheese)
Dorkin and illustrated by Frank Miller, Alex Ross and a score of
other top-ranking talent. Alex Ross's section deals with Kingdom
Come continuity. Ross says that this will be his final work on
Kingdom Come, excepting possible anniversary specials, EVER!
Yow! The release date is to be announced.
<<As for stupid questions, my third-grade teacher always
admonished that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask.
Sure, some of these questions seem obvious, but are they to the
questioner? To a newbie, or someone in an area with limited
circulation, or to a fan with limited expertise on the Net? And if
I can answer the question easily -- as I often can -- shouldn't I?
It gives that isolated fan a feeling of being less alone and a
greater knowledge of his favorite hobby so that he, too, can
educate the next generation. It's also an opportunity for others
to contribute their knowledge to an appreciative audience. I see
nothing remotely useful to be gained by adopting a churlish
attitude and brushing off someone whose circumstance I don't know
-- and who may very well become a friend and contributor to the
conversation down the road.
Look how readily knowledgeable fans contribute to this site: [many
names withheld] -- the list is endless. If they take the time, can
I do less? All have asked questions, and all have answered them.
Where else can you find such a delightful give-and-take by such a
When I got on the Web, there were no sites that gave the more
knowledgeable fan a place to exchange notes with his peers, and
that adhered to standards of accuracy and reliability. I resolved
to build one. And, with the help of people such as yourself and
hundreds of other contributors, it's here. I can hardly let you
all down now!
But thanks for the concern -- it's nice to be appreciated!>>
Ditto. I want you to know that I definitely appreciate the time
you take to answer my questions and read my letters. One thing I
like is that you are a "real" person, Cap. You don't mince
words. You call it as you see it, and you admit if you have
erred. You know your stuff, and I find that I agree with you on
a great number of things! So much so, it's uncanny!
Thanks again, Cap! And, as always, Keep Up The Good Fight!
Thanks for the kinds words, [withheld]! Sure, I call 'em as I see
'em -- and I hope I back up that opinion with a reasonable
rationale, so that the conversation doesn't devolve into throwing
opinions back and forth. And sure, I own up to error -- no sense
spreading false information. Besides, my mother always told me
that being able to say "I'm wrong" is the right thing to do!
I agree wholeheartedly with your Stan Lee remarks. I don't expect
the series to be "senses-shattering" -- in fact, it'll probably be
pretty lame. Stan is indeed past his prime. But the mere fact of
"Mr. Marvel" writing the seminal DC characters has got to be the
coup of the century. Somebody at Marvel must be kicking himself
around the office right now ...
And you bring up an interesting point about WHEN Stan wrote his
best work. "Brand Echhh" in the '60s, by comparison, really was.
When Stan had the courage to write about the UNpopular kid at
school in Amazing Spider-Man, DC's heroes were all bland,
interchangeable caricatures who all spoke exactly alike. Marvel's
characters, by contrast, were an amazing departure from the norm.
Now Stan's approach IS the norm, so younger readers might not
understand what all the hoo-ha was about. But, oh, how we cranky
old men remember!
And as to your comments (and [name witheheld]) about kids who
collect instead of read, any ideas about how to reverse that
Since that time, Lee’s approach is no
longer, even in Marvel. Quesada and Alonso abandoned that come the
crossovers they swamp their output with today.
Interesting that the store manager who wrote this once had children
coming by who could qualify as junior speculators, since they bought
some comics more for presumed monetary value and not for reading
proper. That’s just as galling as the adult speculators who comprise
a much bigger chunk of the market. I figure today, there are less
younger speculators turning up because of the higher prices, but
those who do may have been influenced by their irresponsible
parents. It’s sad to have to criticize parents, but the sad truth is
that even they’re not innocent.
And a shame the store manager thinks Smith was ever part of the good
fight. What’s he done since then to think up ideas? Practically
Dear Cap: Have you ever noticed that (when) in movies
and books "monsters" from the deep come upon land, they always
take the scenic route in order to scare the local folk and grab
hold of the resident beauty queen? Well, you know what a ruckus
that raises. Some ordinary "superman" declares that it is
testostorene time and makes every effort to save the day ... and
succeeds to boot!All in all, it leads one to question: If I ever
saw an octopus the size of Manhattan misbehaving itself within
city limits, would I want to play arm wrestle? Or how about when
a great big,overly-confident meat-eater decides to grab a hold
of the local bathing beauty and carry her to his lair, would you
jump in to the rescue or say "Oh well, there are plenty of fish
in the sea" and leave it at that?
While we would all like to think that we can and will be
heroic when the fishy finger of fate points to us, perhaps it is
wise to stop and ponder; do you really want to face an opponent
on his own turf where his strength would be more than twice that
of yours due to the fact that they are geared to take on the
strong pressures of his natural habitat? After all, the next
time that the fish-man comes for the lady of his stream, he just
may be anxious to prove that he is the alpha male.
What is your opinion, cap?
Me, I always wonder why our piscean friends from the Black Lagoon
find human women attractive. Wouldn't they rather put the grab on
some sexy lobster, or make eyes at the entree at a sushi bar?
Seems to me they'd find human women as repulsive as I would a
Sometimes I wonder if he really means what
he says here, since he sure hasn’t been very convincing in proving
he likes pretty girls. No joke. This was after all the same man who
said he was perfectly fine with getting rid of Sue Dibny, and Jean
Loring too. And, less than 2 years after Avengers: Disassembled, he
gave telling signs he had no qualms over Scarlet Witch’s loss
<<Has it been established that Oracle
"appropriates" criminal funds, or is that speculation?">>
From Birds of Prey 19:
Robin: "Where did you get the cash for this?" (In
reference to some expensive computer hardware)
Oracle: "Some JLA funds. And I picked up a few bucks here
and there from some people who won't miss it. (And didn't earn
That might not be enough for the District Attorney, but
it'll do for me.
Works for me, too, particularly since a pivotal plot point in the
upcoming (and eagerly awaited) Nightwing/Birds of Prey crossover
is that Oracle has been systematically raiding Blockbuster's
financial base. Sounds pretty conclusive to me -- although I have
to wonder if ol' pointy-ears is aware of Barbara's foray into
I wonder if Mr. Smith’s correspondents are
aware of his own forays into apologia!
I read the letter in this week's Q&A about your
answering readers' questions. I am turning 30 in June and hadn't
read a comic (except for Maus in grad school) for over 16 years
until about 18 months ago. An employee of mine turned my on to
Kevin Smith's Dardevil, and then Dark Knight Returns, and then
Kingdom Come, and then it was every Wednesday at the shops from
there on out. Coming back to them as an adult, I think I enjoy
them as much if not more know than when I was a kid. I read
plenty of the non-Spandex independents but I must say I still
love the superheroes, and unashamedly so. They are our modern
mythology and morality plays and I think we as fans should
encourage other adults as well as children to read them. From
what I have seen in my short time back, they have never been as
well written or illustrated as they are now. There is also
something for everybody out there. Even with my limited
knowledge, if you picked a non-comic-reading person at random I
bet I could find at least one book or series that would hook
them. And despite the gloom and doom from fans and creators
about the industry, the stores in Kansas City always seem pretty
packed on Wednesday afternoons.
I got off track a little, but my original intent was to
thank you for patience in answering questions from "newbies"
like me. I have learned quite a lot from reading your site every
Thursday, and have picked up a lot of great books that I
probably otherwise wouldn't have. My wife knows not to even try
to get online on a Thursday evening until I have had my weekly
dose of the Captain. Thanks again for providing an intellegent
and entertaining site that has helped me get the most out of my
great new hobby.
Thanks a lot, [name withheld]! It's my great joy and privilege to
What a disappointment the guy’s co-worker
thought Kevin Smith’s work is something to crow over (and Smith's
site "intelligent"? Certainly not his own segments, that's for
sure). And much as I wish I could say he’s right about mainstream
superhero comics as they were circa 2000, even then, there were a
growing number with increasingly bad writing and artwork. Green
Lantern from 1994-2004 is one telling example, and the Heroes Reborn
balderdash from 1997 is another.
Thanks for your gracious credit. I trust you know I
had no intent to trip you up or "nail the Captain" in a mistake.
As I mentioned, one of the principal aspects I enjoy about your
column is your ability to view comics and comics collecting with
a pragmatic eye, yet enjoying them all the while. Beyond that, I
have made plenty a Silver Age gaffe in my time, on message
boards and in other public forums. When I did, it was always
because I went by memory, too -- instead of checking my
references. Of all the Silver Age titles, Justice League of
America was my favorite, too -- for the same reasons you have,
although I never felt (Gardner) Fox had to reach that far to
include guys like Aquaman and Green Arrow. Although it is
interesting to note (I discovered this when I was putting
together my E-mail to you) that while in the early days there
was almost always a chapter or scene with Aquaman underwater, if
you go through the Fox/Sekowsky stories through JLA 63 (Jun.,
'68), the last time Fox had a scene with Aquaman underwater was
in issue 50 (Dec., '66) and that one was Aquaman's first
underwater scene since No. 35 (May, '65). So, it is obvious, by
halfway through the run, Fox had run dry of ways to squeeze
Aquaman into a story adequately. (In a lot of issues, such as
Nos. 33, 44 and 53, the Sea King is there; but he doesn't do
anything in the way of super-heroics -- he may as well have been
Again, I've let my love for the Silver Age JLA put me
afield. When I wrote you, being 10,000 miles away from my
collection, I was forced to rely on memory about the "Volthoom"
business and the signs around the Crime Syndicate's prison, but
I was very certain of those two facts. And I have to agree with
you on the obvious insufficiency of placing a handful of
multi-lingual warning signs around their prison. I don't agree
with you, however, on the essential cruelty of their prison. One
can presume that the bubble was a stasis chamber of sorts,
keeping the villains in such a state that they did not require
food, water or elimination. That leaves your point about lack of
privacy. With bodily functions suspended, I don't see
disallowing the Crime Syndicate members privacy as a deprivation
of a "cruel and unusual" nature.
As far as Fox's formulae for Justice Leaguers'
participation, I was pretty sure of my ground; but to be sure,
before I wrote you, I downloaded a page from a site which posted
all of the Silver Age JLA covers. With those to prompt my
memory, I could be sure of my points.
And yes, Batman did grow to fill up available cover space.
In fact, I always thought it was misleading for two of the JLA
Giant Annuals to picture Batman so prominently on the covers
when the stories reprinted within were mostly those in which he
had played only a cameo part.
Again, the last thing on my mind was to make you look
foolish. In fact, it would be hard to do so. You see, I have an
advantage in that I stopped collecting or reading comics right
after 1985. You, however, not only have to remember the past,
but also keep current on the present. Especially with a whole
new DCU after 1985, that's a great deal for any fellow. Even
Fair winds and following seas ...
Don't worry, [name withheld], I was pretty sure you weren't out to
"Nail the Captain" -- your polite and well-researched letter gave
ample evidence of your good intentions. And I'm pleased to be able
to make the corrections -- no sense spreading false information.
Your assumption of the Crime Syndicate's prison acting as some
sort of "stasis chamber" sounds OK to me -- otherwise it really
would have been both ineffective and inhumane, both of which would
have been out of character for the World's Greatest Heroes. Still,
it seems to me that there MUST have been a better solution that
didn't require GL's ring to keep the place going. Seems to me that
the Guardians had a prison planet somewhere for super-powerful
felons that would have fit the bill -- unless Earth-3 was out of
I seem to recall this letter was written
by somebody who could easily qualify as a right-wing moonbat, much
like Shepard Smith on Fox News (what if it turns out he’s a Ron
Paul-bot? I wouldn’t put it past him). Yes, there are some so-called
righties out there whose MO offends me, and from what I recall of
this scorpion, he was perfectly fine with Identity Crisis and
turning Dr. Light into a rapist. Gee, I guess if DC editorial
decided to turn Arthur Light or some other supercrook into a child
molestor, he’d be jumping for joy about that too, eh? It’s a
disgrace he doesn’t have the guts to admit he makes more than Silver
Age gaffes! Hey, if it matters, I can make mistakes of all sorts
too, I’ll admit that. In which case, why can’t he, starting with his
support for Identity Crisis? Why can’t he admit it clashes very
badly with his alleged fandom for all that is Silver Age, at which
time they knew better than to depict costumed criminals as sex
offenders, mainly because even grownups didn’t read adventure comics
just to see rapists running around hurting innocent women and
children through violations. Even today, writing such a story –
especially for the sake of media attention alone – only guarantees
you’ll lose audience in the long term. Most definitely if you handle
the issue lightly.
And Mr. Smith, viewing comics with a pragmatic eye? Get out of town!
<<Let's take a look at blade-wielding superheroes (and
non-super comic-book heroes) through the years. I'd be interested
in a list from you and your readers.>>
What about The Swordsman? I don't think you mentioned him. He's
my favorite ... er, swordsman. And he got around the
swords-are-lethal bit by having a very broad blade that he could
thump people on the noggin with the surface rather than (the)
edge and by being the Hawkeye of blades: His was a trick sword,
releasing flames, knock-out gas, etc. Granted, he was as often a
bad guy as he was a good guy, if not moreso, but I really liked
<<BIG BOOK OF THE '70s: Having lived through the '70s, I
approach this book with a combination of anticipation and
bone-deep dread. God, what an exquisitely tasteless
Well, the Big Books are pretty much about bad things, right?
And, hey, the '70s couldn't have been all bad. They gave
us both Patti Smith and Pam Grier.
Thanks, thanks, thanks for plugging Maus.
So, have you read Good-bye, Chunky Rice yet? If nay, then
git (it) in gear ... !
Oh, fer Pete's sake. Here I make a list of comic-book swordsmen,
and omit Mr. Obvious. D'oh! Thanks, [name withheld]!
Sad to see that Chunky crap recommended
Dear Captain: Here's a quick question
for you, or perhaps your legions of Internet readers:
If you've ever been to MightyBigTV.com, you know that they
provide details synopses of popular TV shows (Buffy, Angel,
etc.), usually the same week they air. My question is: Does
anyone know of a similar site for comics?
I realize there are plenty of comic review sites on the
Web, but they all tend to be frustratingly vague. ("I really
enjoyed Superboy's fight with this issue's villain, and the plot
twist at the end caught me completely off guard.") I'm looking
for a point-by-point plot summary.
A site like this wouldn't reduce my pull list: I still
enjoy reading the actual stories more than a retelling. But it
would help me catch up when I miss an issue, or, as often
happens, the story ties into a title I don't follow. ("Why is
Flash suddenly older? Why is Wonder Woman's mom here? Why is
Orion so annoying?") Do you know of any sites like this?
Y'know, I don't know of a one. I know of a few that synopsize
certain titles -- JLA, Green Arrow, etc. -- but not the monthly,
comprehensive site you're talking about. Does anybody reading this
know of one?
There once was one circa 2005 called
Spoilt, but the bloggers stopped updating it. I hope the
correspondent realizes he just ran the gauntlet of committing the
same error as Mr. Smith – panning the characters instead of the
First: I don't think Luthor created Red Kryptonite. My
memory tells me that Mr. Mxyzptlk created it and gave it to
Luthor in "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite."
On the topic of comics creators with sword training:
Coincidentally to your mailbag this week, Mike Grell is a
trained swordsman, which reflects in a lot of his work: Warlord,
Starslayer, Sable (had the ability, though it wasn't his main
weapon), and I suppose even to some degree Green Arrow. It only
stuck out in my mind because either Sable or Starslayer had a
huge delay (back when that meant something) because Grell had
suffered an eye injury while fencing.
I checked up on "Krisis," and Mxy was indeed behind the whole
mess. Thanks, […]!
Alas, Grell soon threw away the ability to
credit him fully on his talents, after he wrote that insulting 50th
issue of Iron Man at the time. And it's terrible, because I've
thought his work on Green Arrow was pretty good.
Dear Cap: Incidentally, WIZARD 16 had an article
which noted that the revamped, Sandy-sidekicked Sandman was
actually created by Bob Kane, but taken over by Kirby.
The Gold Kryptonite wasn't used to kill the Phantom Zone
villains; the Pocket Universe's Krypto exposed himself to it to
give Pa Kent the idea of using against Earth-Sigma's
(post-Crisis regular universe) Superman. Pa Kent got the idea,
loaded all the kryptonite he could find (not just gold --
various other isotopes were shown) into a lead container, and
exposed Earth-Sigma's Superman to it -- to no effect. (The
radiation given off by Pocket Universe kryptonite was too
different from Earth-Sigma kryptonite.)
As to what happened to the gold and other isotopes, they
were presumably destroyed by the Phantom Zone villains. I don't
expect we'll ever see them again; other than a flashback in
SUPERMAN/ALIENS (of all places!), the "Ghosts" annual from
awhile back, and the continuing presence of Supergirl, the
Pocket Universe is a can of worms that DC prefers not to open.
Earth-Sigma? Well, that's a new one.
Thanks for the info, […] -- would you happen to know the issue
numbers where this Pa Kent/Krypto story took place? It doesn't
even sound vaguely familiar! And wasn't the gold kryptonite used
to strip the Phantom Zone criminals of their superpowers in the
Speaking of kryptonite, Smith’s writing
has similar devastating qualities on the very medium he speaks
Dear Captain: Just a point on "modern" versions of
kryptonite. During the "Krisis of Krimson Kryptonite" storyline,
Mr. Mxy (you know who) created some red kryptonite. Gave it to
Luthor, who promptly threw a fit. Seems the red "K" once in
contact with Supes, took his powers away. Giving way to him
trying to look like he was flying with aid of rope, using a
"super suit" created by Prof. Hamilton. It also led to something
that is still in the books. It was at the end of "KOKK" that
Supes asked Lois to marry him. I seem to recall that Mr. M
showed back up and made the red K inert. It's been awhile since
I read it, so, I may have the particulars off, but I believe
that to be the gist. Just a fanboy trying to help out.
And it's much obliged, […]! I just flipped through the KOKK TPB,
and you're pretty much on the money on all your points.
Which is more than can be said of Mr.
Smith. But I repeat myself.
Cap: Great stuff this week. A few comments:
1) I seem to remember reading, no more than 10 years ago,
a Superman story that established Metropolis as twin cities with
Baltimore. But there's no way Midway is in Minnesota -- too cold
for the Hawks to fly around half-naked.
2) I think that the old Batman TV show was absolutely
outstanding -- one of the most original things in the history of
mainstream television. So visually creative, so witty, so much
fun. It actually has been syndicated, as I managed to see just
about every episode when I was a socially stunted preteen about
10 years ago -- an NYC station (the Fox affiliate, I think, but
I don't recall) ran it on weekday afternoons and late nights.
Like you, Captain, I enjoy that show as something
completely different from the "real" comic-book Batman. And
while we may all cringe at the vision of Adam West making Batman
look silly, this flexibility is exactly what's unusual and
remarkable about Batman -- he has existed in so many versions,
in so many media, that it is impossible to say what exactly
"Batman" is. Is he a silly do-gooder on TV? A grim comic-book
hero? An image on a T-shirt? More than any other character in
the history of fiction, I'd say, Batman has existed in more
forms, in more media, unbound by the limits or dictates of a
single authoritative text. Sherlock Holmes has appeared in tons
of stories and various media, but Conan Doyle's stories have
always maintained the authority of the "real Holmes." Batman has
no corresponding master text or concise body of work -- he has
literally thousands of texts that have presented dramatically
different characters under the name "Batman." Even the
ubiquitous "created by Bob Kane" credit is invalid -- Batman was
really created by Kane and Bill Finger, and Kane really did very
little beyond the earliest stages of the character's history.
Of course, all of us can sort of agree on the "real"
Batman because we're comics geeks -- it's a dark, costumed
crime-fighting comic book character. (Some might opt for less
grim -- the Sprang version -- but the rest of us go with someone
like Kane or Adams or, in my case, Norm Breyfogle.) And we might
feel that our version has authority because Batman was born in
DC Comics, is owned by DC Comics and has been a staple of DC
Comics for 61 years (well, not staple. Those are made of metal).
But what we think -- the opinion of the tiny subculture of comic
fandom -- means squat. Pop culture is a creature of the masses,
defined by the whims of the consumer and the market. And the
fact is, when most people think of Batman, they think of the
movies (before that, the TV show) -- that is Batman for pop
culture at large. Tim Burton said it during the pre-Batmania
hype in '89 -- something to the effect of "I will be defining
the character for a generation." (He basically did, although
Schumacher kind of invalidated that pretty quickly.) More than
that, even, Batman is just an image. I'd guess that most people
in this country have heard of Batman, would recognize an image
of him, his logo, and know that his partner is Robin and perhaps
that his archenemy is The Joker. But I'd bet that very, very few
people could tell you the plot of a single Batman story, from
any medium. To culture at large, Batman is not a character
(within a narrative), but an image, an icon, a product brand.
What's great about this is that Batman has the potential
to be anything, and he more or less has been. Batman can be a TV
clown or a dystopic avenger - - and we can enjoy both equally
and not feel that our beloved cultural commodity is "threatened"
in any way. Batman is a wonderful, malleable emblem of the last
60 years -- the most colorful 60 years in our nation's history
-- of popular culture.
As I've said before, I can't wait for this darn Batman
musical -- let's see him conquer yet another great American
1) I agree that Midway City being in Minnesota is absurd. I
dismiss most of the information in the DC Atlas as being
apocryphal anyway -- Earth-Kupperberg, if you will. But --
Baltimore? Sigh. Another precinct heard from.
2) They say the true test of a myth is whether it can adapt to the
new needs of new generations, and I think the Dark Knight has
demonstrated just that flexibility. From "creature of the night"
to clownish crimefighter to world's greatest detective to Batman
Family man, the Gotham Guardian has continually evolved to find a
niche in the pop psyche. And hey -- I love 'em all!
Great Bat-essay, [withheld]!
What, Minnesota doesn’t have summertimes?
Heck, the deep southern USA recently had quite a winter! On the
surface, Midway City would primarily appear to be a stand-in for
Chicago, also known as Windy City because of all the blowy weather
there. But it’s always possible to make it a stand-in for other
cities as well. All the same, it doesn’t have to be based simply on
what kind of clothing the heroes wear, and there is such a thing as
surrealism. How strange to see people telling how much they like the
late-60s Adam West Batman series complaining they can’t leave their
reservations about real life weather conditions at the door.
Dear Captain Comics: I would like to get your
thoughts on Marvel's Ultimate Project. (I read about it in a
column by Michael Sangiacomo, who writes a weekly column on
comics news for the Cleveland Plain Dealer -- a column that
belongs on your page of links, for sure.)
In the fall, Marvel will launch a new Spider-Man and a new
X-Men title that will introduce the characters as if they are
starting out today, in 2000. In the Spider-Man title, Peter
Parker will be a 15-year-old high school student; in the X-Men
title, Professor X will form a team of teen-age mutants
consisting of (if memory serves -- I don't still have the
column) Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue and Colossus.
Marvel will continue to publish its other titles, and
these new titles will fall outside the Marvel Universe and not
be tied in any way to that continuity. It wasn't clear from the
article if these new titles will share continuity.
The idea is to introduce the characters to new, young
readers without encumbering them with 30 years of continuity. To
that end, Marvel will distribute as many as 12 million copies of
introductory issues of the titles, at bookstores, department
stores and other places.
1) It sounds very much like the Manga Spider-Man and Manga
X-Men books, done for American readers. Or, like "Heroes Reborn"
without making the mistake of canceling the ongoing adventures
at the same time. It could work, but I wonder how soon it would
be before these new titles develop impossible-to-follow
continuity; I would hope Marvel would zealously guard against
that. I would also hope that the creative teams strike in new
directions, like Batman: Gotham Adventures and Superman
Adventures, rather than retell and re-retell all the old
2) I don't feel continuity is bad, per se; it's the idea
that the reader has to know it all to get up to speed on the
book that's before him.
For example, I gave up reading Uncanny X-Men way back when
Dr. Doom teamed up with Arcade. (I couldn't stand it. Not only
did that story show Arcade striking a match on Doom's armor
without Doom incinerating him on the spot, it had Storm and Doom
making goo-goo eyes at each other across the dinner table. I
understand that that story has since been ret-conned to say that
it was a renegade Doom-bot, and not the true Doom, working that
scheme. But I digress.)
Anyway, I couldn't get back into reading X-Men now; since
then, there has sprung up a dozen titles and countless
miniseries, maxiseries, specials and one-shots. I don't know who
the characters are and what the status quo is, and I can't dig
through 15 years of titles to figure it out. Marvel was on the
right track with those gatefold covers that listed the cast of
characters and described what went on before; it should bring
Batman: Gotham Adventures and Superman Adventures are a
pleasure to read, in part, because they give the reader all they
need in each story. They assume you are familiar with the
characters, but you certainly don't have to know what happened
in any previous issue to enjoy them.
And Marvel should do what Batman: Gotham Adventures and
Superman Adventures do so well -- give us the familiar
characters in familiar settings and not turn everything upside
down. (Need I mention the clone saga?) And most of all -- give
us stories that are COMPLETE IN ONE ISSUE! Never-ending epics
and plotlines that dangle for years (X-Men, Legion of
Super-Heroes) just make it too hard to jump in.
What do you say?
I'm a big fan of Batman: Gotham Adventures, so if Ultimate Marvel
could establish that type of quality I'd be all for it.
But -- and you knew there had to be one -- Marvel's track record
on this sort of thing is pretty abysmal (Spider-Man Adventures,
Spider-Man Unlimited). The thing is, I don't see continuity as
such a bad thing -- in fact, it was what first attracted me to
Marvel in the first place, the idea that these were "real" people
with "real" pasts who had adventures that "mattered." (As opposed
to '60s DCs, where nobody remembered very much or changed very
much from issue to issue.) Granted, there are exaggerated cases
like the Impenetrable X-Folks, but I just consider that bad
writing/editing. What makes me care about Spider-Man is PETER
PARKER, a fella I consider an old friend who I check up on every
month. I'm not sure I'll give a hoot about this "new" Parker guy
who's a web-site designer for the Bugle instead of a chemistry
Of course, I'll take a look and try to keep an open mind. And if
Ultimate Marvel can re-introduce comics to mainstream distribution
and rekindle excitement in a new generation, I'm all for it.
But I can't help feeling -- particularly with all the other
loathsome news emanating from the House of Ideas -- that the
Ultimate line shows a very basic lack of confidence by Marvel's
executives in their core product.
While it’s true Marvel’s record with the
Ultimate line turned out to be as bad as it was, Mr. Smith’s never
argued to that effect in his column, so I dispute the credibility of
what he says here. And does he really enjoy continuity? After he
failed to take issue with Marvel over Civil War, I’d say he’s only
And how come he hasn’t commented on the lack of confidence Dan
Buckley’s shown in their core output since? Or even his own that
anybody would listen him if he’d be more objective?
Hey Cap: I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring on
the whole Metropolis/Gotham muddle. I remember reading a book
that was published when Superman turned 50 (appropriately titled
Superman Turns 50 if memory serves) which included some
information directly from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They had
always conceived of Metropolis as Cleveland (being from Ohio
However, as the stories and legends of Superman grew,
Metropolis was widely regarded as the biggest city in America.
That biggest city, of course, is New York. As more writers got
ahold of the character in comics and film, New York eventually
supplanted Cleveland as the obvious location for Metropolis.
Unlike Metropolis, Gotham was always a cypher for New York
(the Gotham nickname precedes the first Batman stories by more
than a century). For years, nobody saw a problem in having two
New York cities in DC Comics. Continuity wasn't exactly an
But now we are all slaves to continuity and so fans and
pros alike have had to come up to a solution for this two NYC
problem. The obvious solution -- having Metropolis be Cleveland
again -- doesn't work. Metropolis is supposed to be about a
bright future, and Cleveland with its past and present problems
with pollution just doesn't fit our idea of a bright future. Nor
is it even as big a metropolis now as Miami or Houston.
The second common solution is to conceive of Metropolis as
New York and Gotham as Newark. I kind of like that idea but it's
been muddled by the recent introduction of Bludhaven.
Nightwing's new home is definitely down the coastline from
Gotham and seems to share the whole New York/New Jersey
relationship with the real U.S.
Third is an idea that you explored: conceiving of
Metropolis as Chicago. Unlike Cleveland, Chicago is still
thought of as a world-class city, rivaling even New York.
There's only two problems with that solution. One, Metropolis is
almost always on the eastern seaboard. In fact, it's usually
right on the ocean (disqualifying the Philadelphia idea
suggested by another reader, which isn't even on a major body of
water). The Superman cartoon had Aquaman ride right up to the
Metropolis harbour. Second, either Midway or Central is already
The fourth idea was mentioned by another reader: Toronto.
Like Chicago, it's a world-class city on a major body of water,
this time Lake Ontario instead of Lake Michigan. It does have an
international harbour which plays a crucial role in many
Superman stories. It's definitely the largest city around, and
the whole largest-city-in-the-country concept still applies.
Plus, it has the added bonus of having been used by the Superman
movies for filming purposes and Jerry Siegel lived there before
moving to Cleveland. But like Chicago, Toronto isn't exactly on
the Atlantic Ocean. And the largest-city-in-the-country concept
doesn't work if it's a different country, and Superman is
definitely an American. If Metropolis is Toronto, how does one
explain the easy access from Kansas?
I think that any other city would have even more against
it than Chicago, Cleveland or Toronto. Philly, like Cleveland,
is no longer world class and isn't actually on the ocean. Boston
doesn't seem to fit well, and if any DC city represents New
England it's Starman's Opal. Baltimore's Chesapeake Bay is at
least ocean access, explaining the presence of military ships,
submarines and Atlanteans just outside the harbour but that
would make Metropolis secondary to Washington, D.C., when
they're written more often as equals. Even the pros are
undecided. I've read stories in which Gotham is between
Metropolis and D.C. and others in which the geography is the
With no perfect solutions, I propose that we're left to
pick our favourite (another aspect of personal continuity, a
favourite concept of mine). Of course, this means that if the
pros pick differently, we have to cut them some slack for the
story arc. Right now, Gotham is serving more frequently as the
big harbour, so Metropolis could be Chicago or Philly but that's
liable to revert. It also means that maybe we'd be best
loosening our grip on continuity.
The best solution might be that Metropolis and Gotham are
both NYC. Metropolis is all the best of New York: Broadway, the
Statue of Liberty, the United Nations. The New York that
fascinates us, that we love and that we find in sitcoms like
Seinfeld and Friends. Gotham is all the worst of New York. The
New York that we fear, organized crime, street crime and
muggings. The New York that fascinates us in a different way,
the New York of Law and Order and NYPD Blue. Metropolis is
Manhattan. Gotham the Bronx.
Of course, we haven't even worked out the fact that Kyle
Rayner and the Titans live there (c'mon, Cap, how could you
forget that Titans tower is located in New York harbour?). Nor
have we solved the Midway-Central-Keystone-Gateway dilemma.
There's a reason why we talk about a "suspension of disbelief"
when it comes to cinema, the theater and even comic books.
p.s. I just couldn't resist. I've always thought Midway
was Chicago, mostly because of Midway airport; Pennsylvania is
the "Keystone" state, so that's Philly, although Pittsburgh
could fit; I used to think Gateway was St. Louis because it's
always been the "Gateway to the West" and it has the Gateway
Arch, but I've read stories in which Gateway was on the east
coast (as Boston, I guess) and on the west (San Francisco
presumably); Central is also St. Louis the way that Metropolis
and Gotham are both New York, but it could be Kansas City if we
really need to be persnickety; and Star City equals Seattle but
what was Coast City (San Fran? San Diego? L.A.?) and what else
might I have missed?
I'm impressed with your well-reasoned analysis, […], which leads
inevitably to the "personal continuity" theory.
In my head, Gotham and Metropolis are BOTH New York, but when I'm
reading a Bat-book Superman doesn't exist, and vice versa. Batman
in particular almost has to live in a self-contained universe,
since the majority of his stories would cease to make sense if you
consider that he has Thanagarian teleportation technology at his
disposal that he doesn't use. Heck, "No Man's Land" almost
demanded that we ignore the rest of the DCU.
When Superman and Batman coincide in the same story, then I fall
back on the New York/Newark analogy; I can accept that Bludhaven
is just a miserable suburb of Gotham. (What kind of name is that
for a city? Nobody would ever move there.)
For me, Metropolis HAS to be the premier U.S. city, which means
NYC. I have nothing against Toronto, but -- all jingoism aside --
Superman is American, period. I consider the New York that GL and
the Titans live in to be the Earth-DC version, which is eclipsed
by the City of Tomorrow, somewhere nearby.
On the other fronts, I have to give Gateway City to St. Louis
(unless the story flatly contradicts it) because of that big ol'
arch. If they locate a landmark in the city -- like Star City's
Space Needle -- I feel like you pretty much have to accept what
you're seeing. I haven't any idea what to make of Midway, unless
it's ALSO St. Louis, or perhaps -- as you suggested -- Kansas
I used to consider Central City Chicago -- and still prefer to --
but given its "sister city" status with Keystone, I'm tempted to
think of it as Minneapolis/St. Paul. Since Flash can't bothered by
the cold, he might be one of the few heroes who could operate up
As a kid, I always assumed Coast City was Los Angeles -- or at the
least, San Diego. The DC Atlas locates it north of San Francisco,
which at first seems like heresy until you take into consideration
that the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of aviation R&D --
hence Ferris Aircraft. San Francisco is such a unique city that I
really don't think I've seen it yet in the DCU -- its architecture
and the Golden Gate would give it away. But I'm still shooting for
Coast City to be L.A. -- if for no other reason, the idea that
Mongul annihilated all TV and movie executives on Earth-DC gives
me a warm feeling. Perhaps their network television is better.
Star City, as noted, is Seattle. Manchester (where Impulse lives)
is Birmingham, AL, according to creator Mark Waid. Black
Lightning's Brick City (according to creator Tony Isabella) is
inner-city Cleveland. The Question's Hub City seems an awful lot
like Detroit or Flint, MI -- unless, given its title as "Murder
Capital, U.S.A." it might be East St. Louis, IL.
But it all falls back to suspension of disbelief, and if the
story's good enough, I'm not gonna work too hard to make it all
tie together with a neat bow.
Indeed, he never has worked very hard on
anything as journalist, and his work is anything but neat. At worst,
it’s very messy. And I find his comment about “warm feelings”
disturbing, because he’s suggested he’s fine with the basic premise
behind the prelude to Emerald Twilight.
Dear Cap: I just wanted to drop you a line to say how
much I enjoy reading your weekly article. I really enjoyed
reading your article today about Mark Alessi and his new company
CrossGeneration Comics. The marriage between solid business
practices and the creative process is usually a very rocky one.
Mr. Alessi's background suggests that he is certainly talented
in the business side and the talent that he has recruited covers
the creative side. As a former freelancer (inker), I always had
a strong interest in starting a comic-book production company
with a very strong emphasis on great storytelling and art. I
wish Mr. Alessi and his company best of luck.
Thank you once again for your weekly column. It never
fails to be informative and entertaining.
Thanks, [...]! And the CrossGeneration experiment is an important
one for our little niche of pop culture, so it bears our close
Alas, Alessi turned out to be terribly
incompetent, but you wouldn’t know that from reading Mr. Smith’s
columns. Let's go on to June 8, 2000:
Dear Cap -- If you've read the latest Come In Alone
from Warren Ellis (on comicbookresources.com), then there's an
awful lot of things wrong with the industry that could be the
end of it all. Fanboys seems to be harbingers of doom, because
they resist change. To be honest, without change, then it's only
a matter of time.
No doubt. But how many fanboys are that resistant? Ellis was
quoting a few guys on one BBS, and I don't doubt they represent
many more. But the folks who write me -- like you, for instance --
seem more curious and open-minded. Maybe it's an age thing, where
you have more perspective.
What do the rest of y'all think?
I think Mr. Smith is just as bad as any
insular fanboy, because people of his ilk are harbingers of doom to
boot from another angle: that is, any change they push for is
something detrimental to comics, like Identity Crisis. Pushing for
darkness, which is actually what many of the fanboys whom Ellis and
the correpondent speak of never seriously opposed. Certainly not if
they embraced IC and Avengers: Disassembled, and there were some who
did. That’s why “fanboy” can be a most embarrassing label in some
Dear Cap -- Time for my favourite: numbered
1) Am I crazy, or does this Marvel Boy series look
terrible or what? Grant Morrison looks to have finally gone too
far. I'll go out of my way to avoid this one.
2) On a related note, does anyone else think that Marvel
Boy's artist J. G. Jones is over-rated? He draws some nice
covers and pin-ups, but I found the first Black Widow series
lacked any good storytelling sense whatsoever.
3) On a personal note, Cap'n, have you ever had a letter
published in a comic? I would think that someone
who has been collecting comics as long as you would have written
in at one point. Personally, I've only written to Wizard, and
had a letter published in No. 98.
After that shamless tooting of my own horn, I'm out of
Oh, boy! Numbered questions!
1) Actually, I'm kinda curious about Marvel Boy -- Morrison seems
to take pride in deconstructing the very genre in which he works,
which, to quote Peter David, you do at your own extreme peril.
Sometimes it works (JLA, Doom Patrol) and sometimes it's
embarrassing (Animal Man, Invisibles). I know not everybody would
agree with me on those examples, but I find in general that
Morrison's ego digs himself some huge holes, and it's always
fascinating to see him try to dig his way out.
2) I quite enjoyed the first Black Widow series, but what I
remember is that the story is what hooked me. Well, that and the
covers, where the Widow was stunningly sexy in a non-Image kind of
way. I don't recall the interior art impressing me one way or the
3) As it happens, I've only written one letter to a comic book in
35 years of reading. And, yes, it did get published (in League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen No. 3). I guess I've always been too lazy
or chicken to write, and the pomposity of that one letter when it
appeared in cold print -- which I certainly did not intend -- gave
me good reason to never write another.
This from the same man who’s approved of
deconstructing the DCU in Identity Crisis (which Morrison later said
he was okay with), and also the MCU, as he particularly made clear
when he fawned over Civil War. Let’s also not forget Morrison’s own
take on X-Men, which Smith was never critical of, not even the weird
pacifist take on the series. Worst, Smith only helps the industry
And never mind the letter writing, where Smith’s a lazy chicken is
his cowardice to address the aforementioned miniseries and
crossovers from an objective view that doesn’t blot out the voice of
the detractors who felt the former was misogyny incarnate.
I’ll even note that today, as someone who’s willing to say he’s
embarrassed and depressed at his inability to bring up something
more objective like ask Mr. Smith whether mainstream comics have
addressed the Armenian Holocaust (Medz Yeghern), and could only
think of otherwise cheap ideas for a discussion, that’s given me
good reason never to waste time corresponding to people like him
again. Guilty confession: I was lazy myself.
Dear Cap -- You wrote:
<<Thanks for the info, […] -- would you happen to know the
issue numbers where this Pa Kent/Krypto story took place? It
doesn't even sound vaguely familiar!>>
This story (Krypto in Pocket Universe) took place in Action
Comics 591. The name "Earth-Sigma" was one that was never used
in DC's comic books. I got it from a well-done CRISIS website.
The site had quick entries on the major DC universes.
Earth-Sigma, as noted on the site, was the universe that
appeared in Crisis 11 and lasted until Zero Hour 1. That it did
not last 10 years is due to the various problems discussed on
the web site:
-- Also Known As: Post-Crisis Earth, Earth-PC
-- Keyword(s): Post-Crisis, Pre-Zero Hour
-- Classification: no special classification, possibly a
-- Key Events:
First Appearance: Crisis on Infinite Earths 11, 1986
Last Appearance: Zero Hour 1, 1994
Revealed as part of Hypertime: The Kingdom: Planet Krypton
Earth-Sigma (name proposed by me; "sigma" can mean "sum"
in mathematics) was a merging of Earths 1, 2, 4, S and X. It was
also a constant work in progress. When initially created, all
heroes who had fought the Anti-Monitor at the Dawn of Time
remembered their original universes. Shortly they all forgot,
leaving the Psycho Pirate as the only one who remembered. Over
the next few years, many major characters had their origins
revamped and updated, including most of the most important
heroes. Unfortunately, since this wasn't done all at once,
massive contradictions arose. Eventually DC decided to clean
house again, and Earth-Sigma was destroyed in Zero Hour. In
Planet Krypton and The Kingdom several characters are seen who
appeared during the Earth-Sigma period.
Thanks [name withheld], for the info.
I looked it up, and sure enough the "pocket universe" that gave us
the Superboy story was the same one that was destroyed by the
Phantom Zone villains. And it was in that universe that Superman
broke his oath to take a life, by first robbing the PZ villains of
their powers with gold K, and then executing them with green K
Earth Sigma? Interesting concept.
Yeah, but too bad he was otherwise soft on
Zero Hour, as I’ve always figured. Pure embarrassment.
Dear Cap -- In re: The Crime Syndicate's punishment
in JLA 30
I don't think the Guardians were the type to worry
overmuch about jurisdiction; and even if they were, they had
jurisdiction over the Crime Syndicate once they committed crimes
(which they did) on Earth-One. Extradition would not have been
much of a problem, either, since the villains were finally
defeated on Earth-Two. The JSA would have released them to the
JLA, and that would have been that.
The Guardians did have a prison planet -- remember the
two-part Green Lantern story with Al Magone and Charlie Vickers?
But, as I remember it, I don't think it would have sufficiently
contained the super-powered Crime Syndicate.
Actually, the best prison would have been the Phantom
Zone, presuming one was free to ignore due process in the same
manner as the original story did by imprisoning the villains in
"the misty borderland between worlds". (There is something about
that phrase that stays with me; I have never forgotten it from
the first time I read it.)
Of all of the Fox/Sekowsky JLA/JSA team-ups, the one
concerning Earth-Three was my least favourite. Not because the
premise or the choice of villains was poor, but because -- as
you pointed out -- the story was predicated on too much
coincidence and an unreasonably orderly framework of events. I
just couldn't see the beaten Crime Syndicators standing around
docilely while the JLA decided what to do with them; nor did I
buy the bit about the expressions on the villains' faces tipping
the good guys off to the bombs on Earths One and Two.
Thanks again for the mention in your column and for being
a continuing source of interesting commentary.
I do INDEED remember the two-part Green Lantern about the
prison planet (the first two-parter I can remember in a Silver Age
GL tale; perhaps it was the first). It was that two-parter (issues
55-56) that convinced me to continue buying Green Lantern despite
my limited childhood funds. I had to add another lawn to my
grass-cutting schedule, but in retrospect was quite worth it. Even
though I thought "Al Magone" was just dopey and it was silly that
Charlie Vickers was given a ring; he had shown no obvious evidence
of being "without fear" and having two Earthmen with a ring seemed
ethnocentric to me in what was an extremely diverse and
egalitarian organization. (Of course, years later Kyle Rayner was
given the ring by sheer chance while he was hanging out in an
alley behind a bar where he'd been drinking all night -- you can
imagine how I felt about THAT!).
Of course! He may have been disappointed
in public, but in private, I’m sure he was quite fine and continued
to buy the Kyle Rayner balderdash regardless.
And his correspondent is quite a clown. If that’s how he feels about
the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, does he also find it odd that
Sandman would be pictured sitting docilely around a prison at the
end of a Spider-Man special when he could still have a chance of
escaping? How come that don’t matter to the fool? If the Justice
League had emerged victorious and proven themselves formidable to
the Syndicate, then I’d say it was plausible they saw little reason
to continue with physical resistance, if not verbal.
Dear Cap -- I'm currently in college. I'd like to
eventually work in the comic-book industry. I'm trying to
develop an independent major at my school. Do you have any
suggestions for curriculum, or know where I can find a model for
a curriculum in comic-book writing/editing, or color
separations? I'm also interested in screenwriting.
Nope, not a clue. Anybody else got any ideas?
Not many, but I’d be very happy if I knew
the correspondent had come to realize how awful and unreliable Mr.
Smith truly is. Anyone looking to work in comics should not ask him
Hey Cap'n -- I just read your latest column, "CAPTAIN
COMICS: Rated X" and have to ask, why you think it would be
necessary to purchase the 10 or so monthly X-titles to know
what's what for the X-Men movie. It bothers me when people say,
"There's too many X-titles out there." Mainly because those
people think that you need to purchase all of them to get the
full story. Don't you know that Generation X, X-Force, Cable,
X-Man and all the rest consist of self-contained stories? You do
not need to read the other to enjoy any one of the X-titles.
Occasionally they have the mega-event summer crossover, but
that's about it. I've yet to see the movie (as is everyone, of
course) but I'm pretty sure not knowing a thing about the other
second-tier X-teams won't make a bit of difference or make the
movie any more confusing. Speaking of which, a while back you
stated that the movie will bomb. You also cited the costume
change as a possible reason for it's demise. The reason for the
costume change was that the colors (yellow) just didn't
translate well enough to film. So, give it a chance, who knows,
it may turn out alright.
Actually I didn't say, nor did I mean to imply that you had to
read ALL the X-titles to understand the movie. In fact, I think I
made it pretty clear that the movie versions of the characters
will vary from their comics counterparts substantially. All I
meant to do was remind the newspaper audience for whom I write
that, yes, there are still X-Men comics being published, and you
should go read some of them so you won't be an ignorant boob when
the movie comes out and everybody's talking about the X-Men.
But if I managed to perpetuate the pernicious myth that every
X-book from Bishop to Generation X must be read to understand any
of them, then I stand shamed. Currently, the only books that tie
directly together are X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Unlimited and,
to varying degrees, Wolverine.
And I am looking forward to the movie. I NEVER predicted it would
"bomb." I merely expressed puzzlement and disappointment that they
changed the costumes, which I was looking forward to seeing. No,
whether the movie succeeds or fails will depend on lots of
factors, and the costumes probably won't enter into the equation
much. I just wanted to see 'em!
Even if crossovers didn’t take up too much
room back in the day, Cable and X-Man were two titles that sure
weren’t worth the bother, ditto the Gambit ongoing, and I’d advise
against spending money on them. Mind you, that’s not saying the
characters are bad, just the way they’re scripted, but I suppose
it’s worth noting that some moviegoers might be surprised if they
found out some of the movie cast were based on characters suffering
from bad writing.
Strange he talks about the color yellow, since that was on the black
costumes in the film.
In regards to your statement about Marvel and DC
trivia kings, I agree that Waid and Busiek are high on the list
(as is James Robinson). But for all-out trivia knowledge, no one
can top Roy Thomas. He knows all there is to know about Marvel
and DC. Golden Age, Silver Age, etc. I dont always enjoy all of
his stories or his excessive continuity habit. But he is the man
without a doubt.
You've got a point there, [name withheld] -- when it comes to
Golden Age and Silver Age, I often call on Rascally Roy's
seemingly infinite knowledge. However, without slighting Roy the
Boy, he hasn't demonstrated any particular knowledge post-Crisis,
and I don't see him whupping young whippersnappers in trivia every
year at San Diego. Still, he certainly deserves to be included in
the pantheon of trivia kings.
But he has slighted Roy: he spoke
very negatively about Infinity Inc, acting as though it’s wrong for
the Justice Society to have younger successors, and claiming the new
cast members were uninteresting because they were younger, while the
older ones are superior in every way simply because they were
created during the Golden Age. Compared to a dreadful scribe like
Geoff Johns, who didn’t show much affection for anything Thomas, Roy
is a genius of his time. And why must he demonstrate knowledge
post-Crisis when post-1990s, there wasn’t much he could impress
upon? Let’s also remember DC’s later editors trashed quite a few of
the cast he created during Eclipso: The Darkness Within, Zero Hour,
and even Final Crisis and Flashpoint.
Dear Cap'n -- I'm a bit irked by all this
Byrne-bashing going on. If people don't like his work, fine. No
one can like everything and no one can be liked by everybody.
But for God's sake, people, apply the same criteria to everyone.
Byrne's done some great work, some good work, some OK
work, and some dogs. But I can say the exact same thing about
EVERY creator who ever worked in comics. Jack Kirby? More dogs
than anybody, because he did more work than anybody. Ditko,
other than Dr. Strange and Spider-man, I've never liked anything
he did. Even my greatest hero, John Buscema, has hacked out his
share. And don't get me started on those charlatans who started
The point is, nowadays it's in vogue to bash Byrne. Was
Byrne's Spidey relaunch worse than anything in the Heroes Reborn
relaunch? I say not! Byrne has contributed to some of the
greatest comics of all time. His X-Men art is the best the title
ever saw. His FF run was (until the latter
portion) as good as Kirby and Lee. His Next Men was
perhaps his best work of the '90s (and a far cry above the
Image/Marvel/DC superhero fare of the time). And Byrne's
Superman is the ONLY post-Crisis DC superhero to sustain his/her
new character and continuity. To this very day, Bat-fans don't
know which pre-'86 stories count and which don't.
If we're going to judge the industry's icons from "the
bottom up" then that perspective must fairly be distributed
among everybody, not just one artist. Only in comics do we
consume our talent and throw them away &SHY;&SHY; far
worse than the movie industry. Byrne's arrogance is but a candle
to that of Harlan Ellison and sci-fi fans love Ellison for it!
This industry desperately needs stars to light the way.
With sales in the dumps, we have a talent pool terrified
for their jobs and without voice or vision. Byrne may not be the
idea spokesman for everybody, but at least he isn't afraid to
speak his mind. Y'know, it's not like Byrne ever said "I am the
way, follow me" or anything like that. He just makes the comics
like he thinks he should and lets the fans love him or hate him.
If you want to hate him, do so. But let's not be
hypocrites about it.
You make some very valid points, [withheld].
Oddly enough, I think the reason folks (like me) indulge in so
much Byrne-bashing is because we once LOVED him so. Frankly,
anything with the name "Rob Liefeld" attached to it, I expect to
be derivative, juvenile and poorly executed (like Heroes Reborn).
But when I think of the anticipation I USED to have for a Byrne
project, it makes me all the more unhappy when I read Spider-Man:
In other words, the reason we gripe about Byrne so much is because
we know how GOOD he can be, and we're disappointed that he isn't
living up to his own potential. But you're right -- we should rein
it in. Nothing is served by it.
I’m very disappointed the correspondent
doesn’t like Ditko outside of Spidey and Doc Strange. After all,
this was the guy who co-created the much maligned Hawk and Dove,
along with the 60s Blue Beetle and the first template for the
Byrne may not have said he was the only way, but he did say some
insulting things on his website’s message board once, and would
erase the messages that were negative about his work. That’s hardly
a way to let fans decide. His take on women could be insulting at
times, as seen in West Coast Avengers in 1990. Oh, and before I
forget, Superman no longer sustains Byrne’s continuity.
And funny how Mr. Smith laments how he once loved Byrne, but doesn’t
say the same about Mark Waid, who’s plummeted in terms of talent and
manners. June 15, 2000:
Dear Cap: This may be a little late in the game, but
I thought I'd weigh in with an opinion of something I read in
the Q&A section.
I think the Silver Age revival is fantastic! I am a shade
under 30 right now. The bulk of my childhood comic-book reading
was made up of mid- to late-'70s JLAs, Flashs and Brave and
Bolds. I dropped out for a time and got back into it in high
school and have been a fairly consistent
reader/collector/enjoyer (did I just make up a word?) since the
late '80s. I was there for the grim-and-gritty era. I was there
for the launch of Image and their unique blend of
ultra-violence, bad anatomy and insipid writing. I think the
Silver Age revival is great for comics. If I want grim and
gritty, I'll turn on the news. If I want insipid writing, I'll
read some of my own attempts (ba-dum-dum). I don't want to read
comic books and be depressed. I want to read comic books for the
sense of wonder they inspire. I want to be taken to a world
where magic rings exist, where people can run faster than the
speed of sound, where a man can cling to the ceiling like a
My previous Silver Age experience was in the odd, battered
Flash or Metal Men I could find in a bargain box or the sometime
reprints in the pages of comics I was reading. However, with the
influx of Marvel's Essential line of trade paperbacks and DC's
"Greatest Stories Ever Told" (books) and 80-Page Giants and
100-Page Super-Spectaculars, I have been able to read a wealth
of Silver Age material.
The writing and art style of the Silver Age may not appeal
to everybody. The stories can be downright silly but they had a
certain sense of fun and wackiness that made them work. What is
realistic about watching the JLA beat a giant starfish from
outer space with quicklime? Realism in comic books can be a good
thing; it lets writers flesh out characters that we can relate
with. To me the Silver Age was about wonder and excitement, when
the most outrageous things could and did happen to our heroes.
If Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Kurt
Busiek and others want to take comic books and reinvest them
with that wonder, then I am all for it. That is why I read
comics, to take a few minutes and escape from the reality around
me of work and mortgage and car payments. Thanks for listening.
I'm delighted to hear you say so, [withheld].
In my case, there's no helping it: I'm a Silver Age fan, and
always will be. You never forget your first time, as they say, and
like every fanboy on the planet the best comics in the world to me
are the ones I read first.
The empathy I felt for Lee/Ditko's Peter Parker, the giddy wonder
I felt as Hal Jordan discovered the Green Lantern Corps, the
majesty of Lee/Kirby's Thor, the shameless excitment I felt when
Earth-Two was introduced, the sense of safety I got from
Lee/Kirby's Fantastic Four -- nothing I ever read until I die will
equal those sensations. Those early issues are now chemically
hard-wired into my brain, and no matter how silly a Silver Age
book is, when I read it I'm 12 years old again, sitting in my back
yard with my dog, a root beer and Wein/Trimpe's Incredible Hulk on
an endless summer afternoon.
What I've always feared, though, is what younger fans think of the
Silver Age. After all, their introduction to comics came in later
periods that had a different feel (and often superior artwork
and/or writing). I've always half-assumed that those who didn't
grow up in the Silver Age would never see its goofy charm, its
unqualified heroism and -- most importantly -- its proud sense of
It's really reassuring to hear that I'm dead wrong. Thanks for
reminding me why I read these four-color pamphlets again!
Regret to inform, but if Emerald Twilight
was any suggestion, it’s not entirely so that the Silver Age was
revived in the 1990s. Why, when Waid rubbed out Blue Devil co-star
Marla Bloom in Underworld Unleashed and James Robinson had the
Mist’s daughter wipe out 3 members of Justice League Europe in 1998,
I’d say that soaked the impact very badly. Even the “Final Chapter”
of Spider-Man during 1998 and what followed – like Mary Jane Watson
supposedly dying in a plane crash, but later revealed as just
kidnapped – did a lot of harm and makes it hard to believe Marvel
was trying to revive the Silver Age either.
Dear Cap: I was a little kid when DC came out with
Crisis on Infinite Earths. As a little kid I didn't even know
what continuity was or why it was so important that they had to
change everything. I just remember being annoyed that the New
Teen Titans weren't as good because the Crisis kept interrupting
Shaky memory and all, I do remember reading an editorial
by Jim Shooter on the Marvel Bullpen Page (not even knowing who
Jim Shooter was). Jim lambasted DC for starting over and stated
that Marvel was too proud of their history to ever pull a stunt
like that. He said it was possible for Marvel to start from
scratch every seven or eight years but part of the creative
challenge was working with characters who grew and matured.
That editorial came back to me during the Heroes Reborn
experiment and when Marvel announced Spider-Man: Chapter One.
Now, Marvel's trying to start over again (with the Ultimate
line). I can't say I'm surprised. I even have to confess I'm a
little excited because Brian Michael Bendis is being given the
reins and because I've seen some promo art by Joe Quesada. But
at the same time, won't it be a little confusing to have two
books with the same title on the market? Cap, you said that we
should watch the CrossGen experiment closely. I have to say that
the Marvel Ultimate experiment is the one to more likely make or
break the industry
True enough. The last time the 800-pound gorilla tried something
this big (Heroes World), it collapsed the distribution system into
the hands of Diamond. And like that previous effort, the Ultimate
experiment is another one rife with disastrous possibilities.
Will it be confusing to have competing continuities (for surely
the Ultimates will grow their own)? Will it simply dilute the
existing fanbase? Does it betray a basic lack of confidence by
Marvel bigwigs in their core product?
On the other hand, it is addressing one of the major problems all
the pundits complain about: the lack of appeals (and appeal) of
mainstream books to new readers. You have to give Marvel props for
trying something, even something as unnerving as the Ultimate
Oh, no doubt Ultimate is a bigger gamble than CrossGen, with
greater rewards and perils. And, frankly, my Magic 8-Ball is
pretty fuzzy on it -- I haven't the slightest clue how it'll work
out. I'm just crossing my fingers and watching.
Man, what a shame that correspondent is
such a jerk: I own two issues of New Teen Titans connected to
Crisis, and they actually didn’t push it as badly as I feared. I’m
amazed at how fortunate that is. Maybe Marv Wolfman realized
somewhere along the line that the crossover wasn’t helping much.
Today, it would be even harder to tell something with more
stand-alone elements during a crossover.
And he was hyped up for Bendis? Ugh, what a cringe-inducing moment.
Dear Cap'n: I guess I'm opening a big can of worms
with this one, but if I'm gonna open it, I might as well dump
out the whole can! In reference to Oracle's use of the "Sin Tax"
to appropriate money from criminals, I'll say right up front I
AGREE with you -- it isn't ethical. Ethics are what separates
the heroes from the villains; without ethics, heroes and
villains are pretty much the same (and lately, even that line is
blurred). Is it ethical to steal, even from a criminal who
didn't get the money honestly? Of course not. But in Oracle's
case, what is her alternative? Oracle isn't mobile; cyberspace
is her battlefield. Should she sit back and let the criminals
keep the money, with no way for the law to touch them, and do
nothing while they continue to prey on the weak and get richer?
Not on your life. It's obvious in Birds of Prey 19 (when Oracle
tells Robin where she got the money to pay for the computer
equipment) she's not proud of what she's done; Oracle is hanging
her head (great artwork from Butch Guice to get this point
across). But I'm certain Babs sleeps better at night knowing
she's done her best to help in the war on crime, even if her
conscience bothers her because she's stolen the money. Think of
it this way: Oracle isn't using the money to buy a luxurious
lifestyle or for any other personal gain. She wants the best
possible equipment to get criminals off the streets -- no more,
As for Batman and what he knows about this...I can't
imagine he doesn't know where Oracle gets the funds. NOTHING
gets past his notice. At the same time, I have to believe Batman
also takes funds from Oracle to fund his own personal war. It's
simply too easy to trace his spending if he uses Bruce Wayne's
money as he once did; Ra's Al Ghul isn't the only criminal who
can track this paper trail. I'm sure the ethics of this bothers
Batman, too, but he bends the rules when he must. As the Captain
has said, isn't he violating the civil rights of every criminal
he pummels? And didn't Batman use drugs to get information from
one of Ra's Al Ghul's minions in a recent issue of Detective? I
don't think the question should be if Batman knows about
Oracle's actions; rather, the question should be what would
Superman (the most ethical person in the DC universe) say about
One more thing ... if we were in the Silver Age, we
wouldn't be having this discussion, would we? I imagine not,
especially with the Comics Code at that time.
OK, Captain, it's your turn. Don't go easy on me.
Well, I won't pummel you or use gas on you -- that's Batman's bag.
No, I see your points quite readily; it's the ease with which we
rationalize unethical behavior that makes it so tempting.
But any way you slice it, stealing is wrong. When Batman pummels a
crook, he is arguably PREVENTING a crime. When Oracle lifts funds
that are not hers, she is COMMITING a crime. And, as you say, we
have to keep a line drawn in the sand somewhere, or else the
heroes and the villains all blend into one.
I don't have much more to say about it; all arguments to the
contrary just sound like self-justification to me. It's very
simple to me: Stopping a crime is heroic, commiting one is not.
But did Oracle rob funds from an innocent
man or woman? No, she drew them out of the databanks of a criminal
(Blockbuster), so again, I’m not sure what his beef is.
Dear Cap: Thumbs Up to [name withheld]
Reading is "Coool" and the young [also withheld] got
started thanks to his parents.
-- Newspaper in the Morning
-- Some 30 years of National Geographic, and other
-- Books were the routine gift from their business trips
out of town.
Through gifts and allowance the youthful [same here]
contributed to the bottom line of several local bookstores.
Please forward to the […].
Better than that, […], I'll just post it here for all to see.
The person the correspondent wanted this
forwarded to was a J. Jonah Jameson type – a very creepy leftist
moonbat at that – one who didn’t deserve thanks. I feel sorry for
him that he thought otherwise.
On the subject of comics and the deathknell of
collectibility ... I've already said that the price needs to go
way down (like back to 75 cents). It doesn't have to be any of
the current titles, the publishers can start up a special line
if they want. The titles we currently buy at dealers are
probably going to stay at the dealers. I think the content
(certainly not the vocabulary) is just older than what it used
to be. But the cheapies need to be kept out of the comic stores.
Comic stores reek of collectibility. Cheapies need to be in
drugstores and supermarkets. They need to be with all the other
cheapie toys, like cap guns, plastic toy soldiers with
parachutes on their back, kites and, of course, bubble makers.
All stuff you play with and then lose, but that's OK 'cause Mom
just bought it to make you stop bugging her and it was only a
dollar max anyway.
I think the second thing they could work on is the ads and
read comics in the fourth grade and I don't remember being
into heavy rock at the time. The heavy-handed rock ads need to
come out and the
paraphenalia needs to come back in. Marvel Super Hero Flip
Flops and DC stationary, stuff you buy with points you cut out
of the comic and quizzes to write in and characters you can cut
out. I think your comic readers start before the teen years.
Being a teen is being socially inept and generally depressed,
being in grade school is seeing everything as either gross/cool
or gross/uncool. It seemed like every time I opened a comic it
always started with a big fight scene, Captain America was
always in action even if it was in the Avengers training room
tossing around the Black Knight. It all sounds campy but in
grade school everything is campy.
I think most industry analysts and observers agree that comics
have focused so tightly on the collector/older fan market -- where
the bigger money is -- that they have completely forgotten about
making comics accessible to younger fans (and I'm talking pre-teen
here). The result, by all accounts, is that the comics industry
completely lost a couple of generations in the late '80s and '90s
-- which explains why there are so few newer fans signing up for
the long haul.
I think in a healthy industry there's room for all kinds of
comics, from the kind you roll up in your pocket to that
poly-bagged issue of Captain Phlegm from 1956 that a collector is
willing to pay mega-bucks for. But clearly the most important part
is the former -- if you can't develop younger fans, you'll never
have older ones.
Mr. Smith also forgot about arguing in his
newspaper columns why comics need to be made accessible to younger
fans, and that includes mainstream superhero tales.
And if he thinks there’s room for all kinds of comics, how come he
doesn’t talk about those kinds, like ones with more conservative
viewpoints, or ask why mainstream comics won’t welcome Armenians
into their ranks?
<<And as to your comments (and [withheld]) about
kids who collect instead of read, any ideas about how to reverse
I think one thing we, as an industry, can do to encourage
children to pick up comics is to make them more accessible, yet
do so without destroying continuity, if possible. I, for one,
approve of Marvel's ULTIMATE line. It sounds like a great idea,
and it doesn't sound like the books will be condescending to the
younger reader just because it is geared toward them. Marvel
also had a good idea, if somewhat poorly executed, with the
"What Has Happened Before" type page that also included brief
synopses of the characters in the comic. I think the gatefold
cover was intrusive, but I applauded the effort. I wish that
Marvel hadn't entirely scrapped that idea. We also need to
downplay the collectibility of comics and play up the
readability of the same.
Comics can provide entertainment and excitement that is
not available in any other form. Yes, video games and big-budget
movies provide a similar kind of adrenaline-charged action, and
some TV shows provide the same kind of character development.
And, yes, those examples have the benefit of movement and sound,
but comics offer entire worlds that you still will only find in
comics. Computer-generated effects are nice, but there is
something to be said for the beautiful, and amazing art of a
comic book great that can't be captured in any other form of
entertainment. Imagine if we never got to experience the works
of Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Jim Lee, Jim Steranko or
whoever you believe is a Great. Movies, TV, and video games can
replicate the action, but they can't copy the style!
<<[name withheld]: Dear Cap -- If you've read the latest
Come In Alone from Warren Ellis (on comicbookresources.com), then
there's an awful lot of things wrong with the industry that could
be the end of it all. Fanboys seems to be harbingers of doom,
because they resist change. To be honest, without change, then
it's only a matter of time.>>
<<Cap: No doubt. But how many fanboys are that resistant?
Ellis was quoting a few guys on one BBS, and I don't doubt they
represent many more. But the folks who write me -- like you, for
instance -- seem more curious and open-minded. Maybe it's an age
thing, where you have more perspective. What do the rest of y'all
Ya wanna know what I think? ;-)
Here is my reply that I sent to Mr. Ellis (no response as
of yet, BTW):
Re: Come In Alone, Friday May 26, 2000
Well, certainly there are those people that think along
the lines of what you write, but broad, sweeping generalizations
are never a good thing. No, in fact a good number of the posts I
have personally read in regard to Marvel's ULTIMATE line have
been enthusiastic and positive.
There is the tendency of those who may have an agenda to
illustrate others that they perceive as "the enemy" as one
collective mindset. We're all probably guilty of that, to a
degree. The problem with this is that it smacks of the tactics
that the "mother's groups" (another broad generalization, but
you get the point) engage in, by erroneously claiming that all
who play role-playing games worship Satan, or somesuch nonsense.
To suggest that all, or at the least, to imply that most of
those that post on message boards are these pathetic,
isolationist, emotionally immature fanboys afraid of change is
no better than that which the "mother's groups" have said about
role-players and the like. It is a crude tactic to sway support
in favor of their own opinion by demonizing the other group.
That said, I agree with your opinion of the ULTIMATE line.
In the past, I have had a similar idea about an alternative line
of Marvel superhero comics that echoes what Marvel is attempting
now (of course, not being in the industry in any truly
influential way, I had no way to initiate or propose such a
thing). I just believe that to save our hobby we don't have to
conjure up more enemies. Even those people out there that are
like you described read comics, enjoy comics, buy comics. It is
all opinion and does nothing to hinder or stall Marvel's plans.
I may not agree with the fans on the message boards that
you quote, but I don't agree with your opinions of them, either.
They are not the "enemy." They are fans with different opinions.
We have enough real problems to concern ourselves with. Dividing
our fellow readers into opposing camps for a difference of
opinion can't be healthy for anyone.
That's my two cents. ---
<<Cap in response to a question regarding getting a
letter published: "...As it happens, I've only written one
letter to a comic book in 35 years of reading. And, yes, it did
get published (in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen No. 3). I
guess I've always been too lazy or chicken to write, and the
pomposity of that one letter when it appeared in cold print --
which I certainly did not intend -- gave me good reason to never
Now I have to go dig up that issue! <g> I wouldn't
think that you are too lazy, Cap! And I don't believe yer a
chicken, either! You prove you're not lazy by all the time you
devote to the newspaper column and to the website. And a chicken
would be afraid to voice his opinions. You certainly aren't a
chicken in that regard!
I haven't been able to get my letters published in Wizard
or a comic book, yet (and I've tried, darn it!), but Good 'Ol
Cap has honored me on a regular basis on the web page and once
in the column. I got my letter published in Comics Retailer,
too. YAY! All five of us retailers left on Earth read that!!
<<[…]: Dear Cap -- I'm currently in college. I'd like to
eventually work in the comic-book industry. I'm trying to develop
an independent major at my school. Do you have any suggestions for
curriculum, or know where I can find a model for a curriculum in
comic-book writing/editing, or color separations? I'm also
interested in screenwriting.>>
<<CAP: Nope, not a clue. Anybody else got any ideas?>>
Maybe […] could write to Joe Kubert's school. It is still
around, isn't it?
<<CAP: "...In other words, the reason we gripe about Byrne
so much is because we know how GOOD he can be, and we're
disappointed that he isn't living up to his own potential. But
you're right -- we should rein it in. Nothing is served by
Other than venting, you are correct. And you are also correct
on why a lot of people bash John Byrne. He was my FAVORITE
artist for most of my comics collecting/reading life. Bar none!
And, sadly, I am very disappointed in the change that Byrne has
went through since Next Men. Other bashers of Byrne do so
because John Byrne is something of a legend, and there will
always be those who want to tear down legends for its own sake.
These people are the kind that bash Kirby around Kirby fans with
a twinkle in their eye, just to see the reaction of the fan.
Sad, but true. When I criticize Byrne it is because I am
disappointed. When I look back at his early Fantastic Four and
X-Men, it still ranks as some of my favorite stuff. Ah well, I
can still pull out my favorite Byrne work and enjoy that stuff.
I couldn't agree more about the reading/collectibility issue. (In
fact, read […]'s letter above on the same topic.)
But the issue that really strikes home is your remark about
"Imagine if we never got to experience the works of Jack Kirby,
Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Jim Lee, Jim Steranko ... "
That's a horrible thought, because, as you well know, only a
fraction of a percent of Americans read comics, which means a LOT
of people never get to experience the sheer, transcendant joy that
is a good comic book -- and they don't even know what they are
My wife, for example, told me when we got married that she didn't
like comics because "the pictures get in the way" -- she'd rather
imagine the scene (like when reading a novel) than have it
spoon-fed to her. I didn't quite swallow that -- I enjoy both
experiences, and she's certainly capable of both.
What I discovered on further questioning is that she didn't
UNDERSTAND comics. For example, she pointed to a sound effect and
said, "See? Comics are stupid -- nobody would ever say such a
thing aloud." It suddenly dawned on me that she didn't know the
difference between a sound effect, a word balloon, a caption or a
thought balloon. She didn't know what speed lines meant. She
didn't pick up on the visual cues distinguishing one character
from another. In short: She didn't have the basic visual
vocabulary to understand what she was reading!
I was appalled. It was like meeting a kid who never had a baseball
glove, or an adult who never learned to read.
Being married to me -- and a sweetie par excellence -- she made a
game effort to understand what it was I liked about these funny
little four-color pamphlets. She liked Batman: The Animated Series
and Batman Beyond, so she started leafing through those
(particularly ones that starred Batgirl, Harley Quinn or
Catwoman). She enjoyed them, and moved on to mroe challenging
Bat-books, such as Huntress and Birds of Prey. Her most recent
favorites are "upscale" books like Petrefax and Whiteout.
Would she continue to read if she wasn't married to me? Probably
not. But I'm content that she's finding some of the fun I am,
however vicariously. But what about the other 275,000 Americans
who don't read comics? Suddenly I'm very depressed.
On a similar note, I've also corresponded with Warren Ellis. One
of his CBR columns spoke of the "revolution" to bring comics to
the mainstream media. Well, not to be immodest, but bringing
comics to mainstream media is something I've been struggling to do
for the last eight years. If he's got some ideas, I've got the
forum. So I wrote to him, and we've had some brief, inconclusive
e-mails. Nothing's come of it, but I don't take it personally --
he writes, what, 8,000 comic books and columns a month? But if
he's serious about this "revolution," then so am I.
On a completely different note, the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon
and Graphic Art still does exist. It can be reached at:
And finally, you'll see this week that the consensus is that we've
gone a bit far in the Byrne-bashing, all pretty much for the
reasons you cite. I'm gonna institute a personal moratorium -- of
course, it'll be a lot easier now that Spider-Woman is canceled.
Wow, all this from a guy who doesn’t
understand morality! Who doesn’t write objectively. And he’s worried
about what the missus thought? Now about Spider-Woman:
Speaking of which:
Dear Captain: I just read on the internet that Spider-Woman
will be canceled with issue 18. I have stated that I have been a
fan of the Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew, but this relaunch with the
new Spider-Woman was bad. I am talking I Spit on Your Grave kind
of bad. I would show an issue of Spider-Woman to my little
brother when he would visit me and we would spend hours trying
to assume the inhuman poses the characters would strike -- and
these were poses of characters just standing still or entering
the doors! Bones just don't move that way.
The writing was atrocious. The art was worse. The main
character, Mattie, was ill defined. Mattie was surrounded by
other characters who were also ill defined (her classmates),
resurrected without purpose (Madame Web) or just not used in 20
years (Jessica Drew.) The villains she confronted didn't serve
any purpose and arguably weren't much of a threat. Sub-plots
were left dangling to the point where I think the writer even
forgot about them (where did Julia Carpenter go anyway?)
I wanted to like this book. Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew was
the first superhero I ever saw as a child. Her really bad
cartoon helped me learn English after I immigrated to this
country. It was my interest in the original Spider-Woman (with
Avengers 240) that helped get me into comics. However, this book
wasn't about the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman. This original
Spider-Woman series was better than the new series could ever
dream of being. I hope the Captain agrees with me on that.
Reading Spider-Woman volume 3 was like passing a car crash
on the highway, I couldn't help but peek. Now that it is
canceled, I can't help but feel relieved that "traffic" seems to
have let up. Like the Captain says, "Good-bye to bad rubbish."
I don't often wish a title to be canceled, but I've looked forward
to S-W's demise since its inception. Both John Byrne and Bart
Sears have done far superior work; I couldn't figure out why they
were wasting their time with that rubbish.
Every comic is somebody's favorite, and somebody out there is
mourning the end of Spider-Woman. But I personally found it
insipid -- and little more than an excuse to keep the trademark
alive. Let's hope the next incarnation of Spider-Woman gives a
reason to root for it!
Gee, how come he never wished the next
series with Gambit gave a reason to do so? Not that any of them
since have managed though – terrible writing tainted virtually every
successive Gambit series after the 1999 series – but if he’d just be
consistent on criticizing the writers instead of the characters, we
might’ve had a more palatable take on Gambit long ago. It's just
like Smith not to clearly acknowledge the writers and editors alike
led to the title's cancellation.
Dear Cap: Since it's still fun to bash Chris
Claremont, I'll do it one more time. The thing that he did that
really upset me was in the early FF issues he wrote, around
issue 8 I think. Johnny Storm was practicing with one of those
typical Claremont women that was hanging around. They had a
play-fight in front of a school, and Reed told them that they
might be presenting a bad example for the kids.
This is the stupid part. Johnny then made fun of Reed for
being over-protective. He said something like "Yeah, you never
know, those kids might hop in a rocket and fly into space just
because of us!" I can't believe that Claremont had Johnny say
that! I mean, that very thing had happened at least twice
before. The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes AND the U-Foes all
intentionally flew into cosmic rays to imitate the FF. Even
worse, there was that kid who adored Johnny and lit himself on
fire and then died. ( I think.) You'd think that Johnny would be
a little more sensitive. It sure seems like Claremont never read
a Marvel comic that he didn't write. I know that this story is
something like two years old now, but I just heard someone
mention how Claremont finally turned them off the FF for good,
and I was reminded of when he did it to me.
What's scary to me is that I doubtless read that appalling scene
you describe -- and don't even remember it. It's possible that I
just skimmed that particular issue, but more likely I'm so
accustomed to accepting patently unbelievable and insulting
nonsense from Claremont books that I probably just blotted it from
And just for the record, I, too, have given up on Claremont's
Fantastic Four here on the eve of his departure from the
title.Yup, I'm a man who bought every issue of U.S. One, Kickers
Inc. and Human Fly out of a weird sense of obligation, I have
faithfully read Fantastic Four for 37 years ... and I couldn't get
through issue 32. I just stopped midway through -- after a
particularly pompous, overblown and humorless speech by, of all
characters, the Human Torch -- and walked away. Haven't finished
it to this day. Hope I never get a Q&A on how the storyline
If it hasn’t happened yet, I hope he does!
He’d deserve it after all the harm he’s contributed to comics on his
part, and doesn’t have the guts to admit.
And it’s not really fun to bash Claremont, even if he did turn out
some tales that galled me, like one of the character backgrounds
featured in his short-lived take on Gen13. It’s just very
disappointing how some writers succumb to leftism, is all.
Regarding the e-mail you posted about writing letters
to comic books: I've written a few myself, with a decent
publication ratio. I complimented the Milestone staff on the
artistic merit of noses drawn in Kobalt (I got a signed issue
for my efforts), prompted Marvel to produce the first
Nightcrawler limited series with my own four-letter series of
pleas (they replied with a letter, "OK! OK! It's in the
works!"), tried to explain why it would have been more effective
to have rain in the background when Forge withdrew his marriage
proposal to Storm (I got a letter from a convicted killer in
prison for that one), and slammed the writer's self-masturbatory
introduction to his efforts on DC's Mosaic series (he fought
back). Oh, yeah, and I won the "design your own danger room"
contest in the quickly defunct Champions comic based on a
role-playing game and published by some company I can't even
remember (I used my friend's name in the hero's origin, winning
some small amount of local notoriety for my effort).
In each case, very little good came of my efforts.
Nightcrawler's series sucked, Kobalt was canceled, Ch'p the
squirrel Green Lantern was killed in Mosaic, the X-Men editor
cut my letter, and you really don't want to know what happened
to my superhero friend.
I stopped writing letters when an assistant editor (who
shall remain unidentified here) insulted my writing skills when
I submitted a story idea for his consideration. Comic-book
publishing just isn't what most people expect. I'm glad I work
in newspaper journalism instead.
Regarding fans' Byrne-bashing: I also adored John B. years
ago, and I also have felt hugely disappointed in his offerings
of late. It's only recently, though, that I've realized my snide
comments are pretty shameful and unfair. There's no reason to
show disrespect to a guy who did so much good (accomplishing
more than most of us), simply because he can't meet our
expectations now. I still love his early FF work, and I'd take
his X-Men over Marvel's offerings today without a second
thought. I don't know if he used up his creative potential, got
lazy, hit a run of weak products, or was simply the victim of
fickle fans' tastes. Artists in many other fields face the same
fates -- just look at the music industry. How many singers can
stay on top of the charts for even a decade at a time? I just
wish Mr. Byrne the best and leave it there.
Your account of your letter-writing career is pretty much a
downer. What surprises me is how many letters I'm getting
describing pretty much the same thing. Never having been a
letterhack myself, but seeing those same names appear again and
again in letter columns, it kinda looked like fun. I'd be curious
to hear from those who had a positive experience.
And I think most of the correspondents on this site have come to
the conclusion that we've gotten a little carried away with the
bashing. Yeah, J.B.'s work is not what it was on Fantastic Four,
but as somebody once said, not even Mark McGuire hits a home run
every time at the plate.
This correspondent, a journalist of J.
Jonah Jameson persuasion, will remain unidentified, though I will
note that I once found him writing articles for a weekly paper that
were hostile to conservatives, and to Israel. That aside, I think
he’s boasting when he infers he prompted Marvel to produce a
Nightcrawler mini. It’s not every editor who just up and greenlights
a suggestion instantaneously, and I’m sure there were various other
letterhacks who wrote in asking for specific minis before final
approval came about. Still, doesn’t surprise me that some people are
so full of themselves, they start blowing smoke. That part about a
convict is also hard to swallow. And what was his beef with Gerard
Jones’s scripting of Mosaic? Sure, there can be flaws in that run,
but Jones was still way ahead of Ron Marz’s efforts, one more reason
it’s terrible Kevin Dooley had to destroy all Jones’s hard work.
Something tells me he didn't have many issues with Ch'p perishing in
GL: Mosaic, if he didn't care about Israelis/Jews who met even worse
Furthermore, his writing in the papers was poor, maybe more so than
his writing to the comics editors, and if he was going to demonize
Israel and conservatives, then I can only add insult to injury by
panning his pseudo-talents. I’ll also note that, should I ever find
out he said anything remotely hostile against 9-11 Families for a
Safe America and Armenia, I will be very angry. I’ve got a sad
feeling that, if he could be so hostile to Israel, he wouldn’t have
a problem Byrne after he made an offensive comment about Latinos
back in the mid-2000s.
Captain: Many congratulations on the richly deserved
CBG gig. Your site's content provides abundant reason for the
honor. But your gracious (and often lengthy) responses to every
email are what make you a true hero in my book.
Thanks for your musings, and for being a class act.
Thanks a million, […]! Of course, now I'm on the spot -- and I
can't think of a darn thing to say to turn this into a "gracious
and lengthy" response! Darn!
Nope, his site’s content – or at least his
own columns for Scripps-Howard – provides abundant reason to view
him as a real life J. Jonah Jameson. But I repeat myself there.
CBG’s since been cancelled, and while there were writers there who
did good jobs, Smith did not deserve his role there one bit.
Dear Cap: Sometimes, the questions submitted by your
readers strike me as the "geez, who wouldn't know the answer to
that" kind -- until I realize that it has been 25 to 30 years
since some of the answers appeared in a comic, and the
questioner probably hadn't been born, yet.
Then, I feel ancient.
You and me both, brother! But as you noted, not everybody has the
advantage we do in having been avid readers for lengthy periods of
time. Sure, sometimes I'll get a question so patently obvious
("Who was first, Batman or Superman?") that 99.9 percent of all
comics fans know the answer. But there's that other percent that
DOESN'T know, and I feel honor-bound to help them get up to speed.
We were all young once, and we oldsters have a responsibility to
younger fans to help them enjoy our little hobby as much as we do.
Thanks for giving me the chance to air that particular thought,
Well even I can’t claim to being a
definite expert today, even as I’m now pushing 40, but Mr. Smith did
not help get anyone up to speed, and I wonder if the reason he
dropped these correspondence exchange concepts from his chores years
ago was because he wanted to silence the voices of anyone who had
the guts to protest Identity Crisis. Even publishing letters in his
paper columns was something he quit doing about a decade ago,
perhaps for the reasons I cite.
Actually, the idea that the Golden Age's Black
Canary's daughter was the one in the JLA predates the Crisis.
You see, what happened was that around Justice League
219-220, the evil Johnny Thunder of Earth-1 returned. (He had
last been seen in the Earth-A story from Nos. 37-38). He gained
control of the Earth-2 Thunder's Thunderbolt. While he had
control of it, it was discovered that the original Black Canary
had had a daughter who had been cursed by the Wizard with the
sonic scream so that her normal baby cries would cause
destruction. As nobody could cure the child, Johnny Thunder's
Thunderbolt put it in suspended animation in his home dimension
and erased everyone's memory of it.
Flash forward to circa JLA 75; the villain Aquarius killed
the original Black Canary's husband. The Black Canary was
herself hit by one of the villain's bolts. The result was
internal bleeding that she did not know about. Unaware that she
was dying, she asked that she could start a new life on Earth-1.
During the transfer to Earth-1, the original Canary succumbed to
her wounds, and perished. Thinking quickly, the Thunderbolt
decided to transfer the original Black Canary's memories to her
daughter, whom he aged to adulthood. The new Black Canary had no
memory of her time in the Thunderbolt's dimension, believed
herself to the original Black Canary, and thought Aquariaus's
bolts had given her the sonic cry. (Of course, these events are
not apparent from the issues of Justice League that contained
the original Aquarius stories, but were revealed in JLA 220.)
This story came out well before the Crisis. It plugged a
hole as to why the Black Canary of the Justice League was not as
old as the JSA members were. The answer, of course, was that
they were not the same person.
A few other (Batman) oves were Julie Madison (who was
probably the earliest); she appeared as early as 'Tec 31-32
(reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told). She
existed on both Earth-1 (she was referred to in 'Tec 474,
reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told) and Earth-2.
One of her last appearances pre-Crisis was in World's Finest
Comics 248. She was a part of post-Crisis continuity. With the
minor change that she was blonde (unlike pre-Crisis, where she
was a brunette), she appeared in a retelling of the first
Clayface story for Secret Origins 44. As far as I know,
Linda Page, the daughter of a wealthy oilman, was another
early flame. Around 1942, Julie Madison stopped appearing
regularly in the series, so Linda Page made her first
appearance. Page was actually even used for the 1943 serial
Batman, where she was played by Shirley Patterson. Page's last
regular appearance was Batman 32. She returned in Brave and Bold
197, in a story firmly set on Earth-2. As far as I now, Linda
Page did not have a counterpart on Earth-1. I can't vouch for
her (or Madison's) existance on Earth-0 (the post Zero Hour DC
Universe) or the Central Timeline.
As far as Vicki Vale goes, I have some interesting trivia.
She actually did not first appear in the comic books, but in the
Columbia 15-chapter serial Batman & Robin. She was played in
that serial by Jane Adams. She made the transition to the comics
because Bob Kane had met Marilyn Monroe and drawn some pictures
of her, and wanted to use them for the comics! (See Batman and
Me by Bob Kane if you don't believe me!) The colorist got the
hair color wrong, though, so Vale ended up being a redhead, not
a blonde. Vale disappeared in 1964, when Julius Schwartz took
over as editor. Vale was, of course, used for the 1989 (movie)
adaptation, where she was originally set to be played by Sean
Young (as went over a couple of Captain Comics ago), who was
fairly close-looking to the comic book version.
Actually, using Vicki Vale for the love interest was a bad
idea -- after all, as the Cap has noted, she is not much
different from Lois Lane, and four Superman movies had just come
out within 11 years of the 1989 Batman movie! Ah well,
otherwise, (screenwriter) Sam Hamm is (mostly) above criticism.
I know there was some Breyfogle era-story from the late
1980s/early 1990s involving Catwoman in which Vale was used, and
also an annual (Batman Annual 19) and a few other appearances in
the early/mid 1980s, but can anyone note other recent ( in the
last ten years) appearances of Vicki Vale?
Finally, an odd love interest was Julia Pennyworth. It had
been established (see Untold Legend of the Batman, which was
reprinted in paperback form by Tor) that Alfred Pennyworth had
fought in World War II. So, someone got the idea to have it that
he may have had an affair with French resistance fighter
Mademoiselle Marie (who was one of the top DC war comics heroes
from the 1960s and 1970s). A woman named Julia Pennyworth
appeared claming to be the result of this passion! Though
referred to as late as Batman 384 (and it was never definitely
revaeled that she was the daughter of Pennyworth and
Mademoiselle Marie), the Who's Who Update '87 5 stated clearly
in the appendix that Julia Pennyworth did not exist post-Crisis.
Although an interesting attempt to incorporate one of their more
conventional adventure characters into the costumed/masked-hero
mythos, we could not have Alfred a veteran of World War II still
at his job in 2000, so don't expect Julia Pennyworth to return.
Finally, an odd thought about casting for the Superman
movie (if another one ever gets made, which is admittedly
doubtful). While I agree that Nicolas Cage would not have been
my first choice, I was surprised that no one ever thought about
getting Gerard Christopher to play the part of Superman. After
all, he played Superboy for a few years in the late 1980s/early
1990s. Its been about 10 years now, so he's old enough to play
Superman. Whatever one's view on the quality or lack of quality
of the Superboy TV show, Christopher facially looked the part of
Superman, which cannot be said of Nicolas Cage.
Thanks for the additional details, [withheld]! I have
to note for the record, though, that Vicki Vale debuted in Batman
45 (1948), a year before the Batman & Robin serial.
Well here’s something where the
correspondent got some data wrong, but Mr. Smith still remains in a
similar boat! Besides, Vale did make at least one appearance in a
Batman special in 1978, and another about 4 years later, then a few
more circa 1989-90, to coincide with the Batmovies. And those
appearances were a lot more interesting than the original Batmovies
will ever be! We now proceed to June 22, 2000, and two for starters
You said on Oracle's 'sin tax':
<< ... when Batman pummels a crook, he is arguably
PREVENTING a crime. When Oracle lifts funds that are not hers, she
is COMMITING a crime. And, as you say, we have to keep a line
drawn in the sand somewhere, or else the heroes and the villains
all blend into one. I don't have much more to say about it; all
arguments to the contrary just sound like self-justification to
me. It's very simple to me: Stopping a crime is heroic, commiting
one is not.>>
Think with me ... When Batman acts punching some thief, as
Batman is no policeman and (is) not (acting) in self-defense, he
is commiting a crime (and we have to consider the aspect that
the crime has already been made and Batman is preventing this
thief acting again).
As Oracle acts in an illegal way too, after the crime has
occurred and takes the money that would be used to buy guns or
drugs -- isn't she preventing a crime in the same way the term
is used for Batman?
That's my point.
And it's a good one. Here's someone who agrees with you:
Howdy, Cap'n: I wanted to throw my dime in on Oracle's "sin
Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I'd call Robin Hood a hero.
Stealing the sheriff's money didn't invalidate this. The sheriff
was overtaxing the people. The money was legally, but not
rightfully, his. So (Robin) took it back and gave it to the
people. The main difference with Oracle is she isn't giving the
dirty money back to the people who had it before Blockbuster.
She's using it to help them indirectly, by trying to put
Blockbuster and other crooks out of business. So, while it may
not be completely ethical, it's not without precedent in heroic
I still really enjoy the site. I read your column (and
assorted other stuff) every week. And congratulations on the CBG
You both make very good points -- the Robin Hood bit is
particularly thought-provoking -- and I admit that my certainty is
not what it was. I still feel a line of some sort is being
crossed, though. What do the rest of you think?
That the first one makes better points
than the latter! Why? Because the second person whose letter is
featured was a moonbat who once worked for Newsarama, and supported
Identity Crisis. Absolutely sick. As a result, his own argument
falls flat and never recovers.
Hi Cap! You wrote:
<<What I discovered on further questioning is that (my wife)
didn't UNDERSTAND comics. For example, she pointed to a sound
effect and said, "See? Comics are stupid -- nobody would ever say
such a thing aloud." It suddenly dawned on me that she didn't know
the difference between a sound effect, a word balloon, a caption
or a thought balloon. She didn't know what speed lines meant. She
didn't pick up on the visual cues distinguishing one character
from another. In short: She didn't have the basic visual
vocabulary to understand what she was reading!>>
I was in the third or fourth grade, I think, when I first
realized that there was a "visual vocabulary" to comics. I have
always, I mean ALWAYS enjoyed comic books. Truth to tell, I
can't remember never having read them or, at the least, looking
at them. I guess it is due to the fact that I have older
siblings, and therefore comics seemed to always be prevalent,
that I can't recall my first comic. I also have been an artist
since I was three years old. Just as I remember comics always
being a part of my life, so too has drawing always been a part
of it. That is why I think I found it unfathomable when, in the
third-fourth grade, a female classmate who was watching me draw
a superhero punching a villain asked me what all the lines were
as the hero threw his punch. I was confused and somewhat
shocked. How could this girl not know that those lines
represented the motion of the character? It was then that I came
to understand that thought balloons, sound effect captions, and
everything you mentioned above were not common knowledge to
When I look back at the earliest comic strips, Hogan's
Alley, Katzenjammer Kids, Little Nemo, and all the great,
classic strips that helped form that language, I wonder how the
reading public first reacted to the visual shorthand. Early
political cartoons seem to show a banner that leads to the mouth
of the speaker as a way to indicate speech. The early strips and
comic-book stories used parentheses to distinguish thought from
the spoken word, before coming upon the cloud-like word balloon.
I suppose that the cloud was used to represent the dreamlike
quality of internal thought. I find it fascinating to try to
figure out how artists/cartoonists first decided on and
developed what symbols to use to show such representations. The
light bulb above a character's head who has an idea, or a dagger
emitting from the eye of an angry person and aimed at another
person who has upset him. These and others are some symbols that
we comic readers take for granted, and that is why we are
sometimes find the notion inconceivable that there are those who
are not familiar with those symbols.
As for the artwork, does your wife still see it as
intrusive, or has she learned to like and appreciate the talents
of the artists? To me, the art is enjoyable on a level of its
own. Comics are wonderful because of the marriage of words and
pictures. There is most definitely something to be said for
reading a novel and using your imagination to conjure up
visually what is being in text, but it is inspiring and
elevating to look at a great piece of art by a comics master. I
honestly believe that the art of Alex Ross, Will Eisner, Winsor
McCay, Jack Kirby and not a few others are every bit as
uplifting and wonderful to look as a Picasso, Dali or
It has always been interesting, and, frankly, a bit
insulting that the art world chooses to honor the works of
Lichtenstein and Warhol for swiping comic book panels, while
showing disdain and ridicule for the comics that those artists
I agree wholeheartedly that comics greats are an equal level with
artists in other fields -- painting, scupture, what have you. It's
too bad the rest of the world doesn't see it that way -- and I
suspect there will always be a percentage of people who just don't
"get" comics no matter how mainstream they become, in the same way
that I don't "get" opera or broadway musicals.
But I think we can both agree that there are plenty of folks out
there who'd love comics if A) they weren't too embarrassed to read
"children's literature" and B) if comics were easily available.
They’ve love them a lot more if the
mainstream publishers didn’t go out of their way to turn them into
an equivalent of bad fanfiction with rape fantasies and other
gratuitous violence stuffed into the mess. Something that’s never
occurred to Mr. Smith, even as he occasionally pretends to “get the
Dear Cap: Congratulations on the new writing gig.
Onward and upward.
Some more details on Batman's romantic history: Julie
Madison definitely was the big one in the very early days.
Interestingly, she showed up in an Elseworlds story: Master of
the Future, the sequel to Gotham By Gaslight, featuring the
Victorian-era Batman. In fact, she was one of the main
characters, playing a typically curious Victorian woman who is
dually fascinated by her puzzling fiance, Mr. Wayne, and this
mysterious Bat-Man. She figured it out at the end.
I always assumed that Vicki Vale was chosen for the 1989
movie because she really was the dominant Bat-babe for the '80s.
She was a major player in the early part of the decade, during
Gerry Conway's run, around when Jason Todd was introduced. And
she stayed a recurring presence through the early '90s -- in
fact, in one Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle story, Bruce came within
a hair of telling her his secret. No dice, and she took up with
a fellow journalist and left Gotham. (Interestingly, this fellow
journalist was a black man, and their affair -- including deep
kissing on panel -- was presented with absolutely zero
commentary. Who says comics are full of conservative
Soon after, Bruce fell for his doctor, Shondra Kinsolving
(a black woman!). Unfortunately, Bane came to town, Shondra was
kidnapped, and the immobile Bruce trotted the globe to rescue
her while Azbats held the home front. Don't recall what happened
to poor Shondra, though.
A few weeks ago, you made an offhand reference to Grant
Morrison's Animal Man series; something to the effect of "It
didn't work." I'm curious to hear more detail on your thoughts.
I've had choice words for Morrison on this site in the past, but
I recently read Morrison's Animal Man stories for the first
time, and I found them excellent. A very skillful balance of
straightforward superheroics, real-world believability and
insightful commentary on the form itself. Yes, toward the end he
got weepily personal, and the existentialism was a little coy,
but, dear lord, that stuff is endemic to "high" literature; the
intelligent artists can be forgiven a little self-indulgence.
That scene where Buddy Baker retreats to the desert, pops some
peyote (take that, Comics Code), and turns around for a
full-page shot of his face, staring at the reader, screaming "I
can see you!" Very clever, very funny, and warm, too. It's too
bad Animal Man has retreated into DC limbo. I'd love to see him
and his unique view on the DC Universe appear from time to time.
What I didn't like about Animal Man was what most people liked
about it. In my opinion, breaking down the fourth wall is a clever
bit ONCE; as an ongoing thing it deconstructs what you're doing
into parody and substitutes for actual writing. And by the end of
the series, as you noted, Morrison's self-referents turned into
self-reverence -- and it turned me off.
But that's just my opinion!
One that falls flat, because he’s a
journalist who’s been otherwise lenient on Morrison, alas. Breaking
the fourth wall in itself can be a clever idea, but not when
Morrison’s the one doing the writing. On the other hand, when John
Byrne wrote The Sensational She-Hulk (1989-93), he used a similar
approach, at a time when he was relatively better a writer than he
later became, and it worked pretty well for the duration.
But I digress. Here’s a case of the correspondent dampening the
impact of his letter with some nonsense about “conservative
propaganda”. Gee, did it ever occur to him that some righties could
write a love story between Vicki Vale and an Afro-American reporter
too? Speaking as a rightie myself, I’d be willing to give that a
try! Today though, it’s uncertain whether the editors would allow
such a tale to be published, because leftie PC’s taken over in ways
that not many may have expected. Here’s the next batch from June 29,
Hey Cap and all my fellow correspondents:
Although I love reading everyone's thoughts from week to
week, I thought I'd take a quick second to comment on a couple
No kid has ever made the news for setting himself on fire
while trying to be the Human Torch. However, public
opinion-savvy TV executives realized that if such a thing ever
did occur it could cost them millions of dollars and possibly
bankrupt a network. For that reason, when TV finally saw fit to
air the Fantastic Four, we were introduced to a different fourth
member: H.E.R.B.I.E. One tragedy was averted for another. So,
the event never happened, although the fear of it is real
[name withheld], I have to say that I agreed with most of
what you said about recapturing the readability of comics. As an
adult, I've had to find new copies of my favourite childhood
issues because they were so battered they finally fell apart.
However, I don't think either of your solutions would
work. Marvel did try a 99-cent line only a couple of years ago.
They introduced Avengers Unplugged, Fantastic Four Unplugged,
Marvel Fanfare and Uncanny Origins. Regular readers didn't
support these books as they were only loosely tied to continuity
and didn't feature prominent creators. But without the support
of those readers, the books couldn't make money on drugstores
and corner shops alone. They didn't succeed and Marvel had to
scrap all four.
Secondly, I'm sorry but Spider-Man and Superman have as
little control over ads as Frasier and Friends. Companies sell
ads to the companies willing to pay for them. If that's Sam
Goody pushing the latest Heavy Metal wannabe and not some Gag
Gift Emporium, Marvel is going to take the money and run. And to
be frank, in a capitalist system, there shouldn't be anything
wrong with that. Let's be honest, as much as we love the old
pictures of Sea Monkeys, nobody was buying comics for the ads.
I'm much more worried about Top Cow and Awesome who seem to only
run ads for their other books. That means the company isn't
actually selling advertising space outside of the company and I
have to question the profitability (and survivability) of any
company not bringing in that indirect revenue.
Here's hoping Alan Moore and J. Michael Straczynski never
leave the comics biz.
I'd like to add Untold Tales of Spider-Man as another unsuccessful
99-cent comic which DID have big-name creators, specifically Kurt
Busiek and Pat Olliffe. According to Busiek, not only did the low
price fail to affect sales significantly, but also it reduced
retailer profit margins and the books were not significantly
supported at the distributor/retail level. In short: In the
current market/distribution system, price doesn't seem to be a
Once, Busiek was a big name in the biz.
But no longer. In fact, I don’t think he’s had many prominent jobs
since 2008. But never mind that. What matters here is that the
correspondent embraced Identity Crisis, and if that’s how he’s going
to go about, I don’t think he agrees with the other guy about
recapturing readability for children at all.
And unlike him, I honestly wish JMS would leave comics altogether!
Moore already has.
Dear Cap: Glad to hear you found my suggestions
worthy of listing. I'll be looking forward to seeing them "in
print" with the same anticipation I used to feel knowing a LOC
of mine was going to show in my favorite comic's lettercol. Of
course that was when I was buying, literally, every Marvel and
DC superhero title on the stands. Today, Planetary is my sole
I stopped collecting comics 15 years ago. Chief among the
reasons was the fact that, for me, the fun aspect of it all
disappeared. Endless crossovers. Variant-cover releases. Etc.
Sure, comics companies had always wanted our money. But now, it
seemed, they wanted it all. At any rate ...
I'm thankful for finding Captain Comics and in it finding
elements which remind me of the things I liked best about the
hobby years ago. Nostalgia is a feeling I generally try to
eschew for it suggests to some, at least, a dissatisfaction with
one's current phase of life or the influences upon it. Rather
than thinking about how good the "old days" were (if, indeed,
good they were) I appreciate the value of reminiscences of the
Golden Age or Silver Age as entertainment in an of itself.
You do a masterful job of presenting material that can be
enjoyed on multiple levels. The online community-at-large and
specifically those webmasters striving to create places of
focused entertainment and interest would do well to take note of
the seeming ease with which you do just that.
We wish you continued success.
Thanks for the kinds words, […]!
I think we share similar sentiments -- I enjoy reading Silver Age
comics not just for the nostalgia they bring, but also for the
sheer fun of it. At no time do I wish to be 12 again (that would
involve going through adolescence a second time, surely the famed
"fate worse than death"), nor do I wish for comics to return to
the style of those halcyon days. In fact, I've often pontificated
on the idea that THIS is the true Golden Age of comics, with the
most sophisticated stories, art, coloring and printing ever seen
in our little hobby, as well as the widest range of subject
As Stan the Man used to say, "the best is yet to be!"
I don’t think he really enjoys reading
Silver Age stuff, based on his negative attitude towards some of the
co-stars from those superhero books. Makes you wonder why he’d even
bother to start with. If only Stan Lee could forsee how pretentious
people like Mr. Smith is, he have to figure that the worst is yet to
come. A pity the correspondent wasted his time on Private
Propaganda, much like I did.
Dear Cap: I couldn't disagree with you more about
comics fans and their attitudes. We are a completely spoiled
bunch. We whine when something happens that we don't to and
complain when we say a story sucks because it does. We drop
books because of it. Here are some examples:
People still whine about Kyle Rayner being the new Green
Lantern, even though it's been more than five years. We say "How
dare he mess with a legend?" Ron Marz and Zero Hour is on alot
of people's hate list because of the Parallax thing. You want to
know why Hal is the new Spectre? Blame the fans.
Some people still want Barry Allen to be the Flash, even
though its been over 15 years since his death. They need to get
They may kill a second-string hero every now and then but
when was the last time a MAJOR hero died and stayed dead?
Superman returned. So did Hal Jordan. The last hero I remember
is Robin II (a.k.a. Jason Todd). And the fans were the ones that
We scream over costume changes. We need to realize that
even heroes can't wear the same clothes forever.
With the exception of Oracle and Aquaman, has anything
happened to characters that they just can't fix? You know Gotham
City is going to be rebuilt so we are not that excited (by "No
You see what I mean. We are a picky bunch.
Another problem fans have is that they are sticklers for
continuity. If a story comes along that contradicts a previous
story they scream foul. An example is Hawkman. Let's get back to
the basics, a man with a hawk mask and a mace. Forget the
Egyptian hawkgods and Thanagar stuff.
Another example is Superboy. For every fan that knows his
current history I can show you at least 10 people who thinks
he's still Superman when he was younger. He's not accessible to
Fans say they want new, different books. But let's get
real. If a character isn't somehow related to Batman,
Superman,or the JLA your chances of a fanbase is nil. I can
think of at least five quality books that got canceled within
the last two years because they had a small fanbase.
Also, books become boring because fans won't let writers
do anything that could possibly upset them. Alfred Pennyworth
has no chance of dying or retiring in the Batman books because
fans would be calling for their heads in 10 seconds. I'm sure
Dan Jurgans would still be on the Superman books with new, great
ideas if the fans would only let him initiate them. Instead we
force him to have Superman fight the Cyborg every six months
because it's safe.
Wow, […] -- you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the
satellite headquarters before writing that last e-mail!
Sure enough, there are lots of whiney, obnoxious fans. But I've
also met a lot of generous, upbeat fans -- many of whom correspond
on this site. Maybe it's a glass half full/half empty sort of
thing. Me, I just want another glass!
Oh, and just for the record, I've never met anybody who wanted
Barry Allen back, including this hoary old Silver Ager. The
character was a cipher, and if I want to read about him, the
Comics Cave is chock-full of Flash comics!
I have to agree that fans are pretty hidebound about continuity.
But then again, so are the publishers. DC certainly isn't about to
let Superman change in any significant way, and that decision has
more to do with their OWN conservative attitudes than that of the
As for me personally, I don't mind continuity shifting (or being
discarded) for the sake of a terrific story. On the other hand, I
DO have a problem with continuity being chucked willy-nilly for a
LOUSY story ("Emerald Twilight" and Zero Hour leap to mind here).
If the creators don't care about their characters, why should we?
If we're not to have any sort of recognizable status quo, how can
we tell that it's unusual for Lois Lane to fly or for Robin to
suddenly have heat vision? If there are no rules, then the stories
are simple nonsense suited for children.
Judging by his failure to criticize DC for
bringing back Barry for entirely commercial reasons, even as they
injected repellent retcons into his background, I can only conclude
he doesn’t mean what he said. Besides, while he personally may not
have met anybody wishing Barry back, there have been some here and
there, even asking about Barry on occasion at conventions. Geoff
Johns is one of those who decided Wally West wasn’t good enough. In
fact, he decided Linda Park West wasn’t either, so he retconned her
out of existence in Flashpoint.
I’m of mixed minds about the correspondent’s arguments. People
wouldn’t have been so fussy about Kyle Rayner if only Marz and
Dooley had given Hal a respectable sendoff, even if they killed the
guy at the end of the tale. And if Hal was ever a cipher, then Kyle
was too, and nobody should act like it couldn’t happen.
But if alleged fans are to blame for anything, it’s because they
continued to buy the product no matter how tarnished it became. And
if any so-called fans sent threat letters, as was told in past
years, that was wrong and makes it worse, since it could make the
writers more callous, alienate potential allies sympathetic to the
fans’ positions, and downright embarrass those fans with more
rationale than the more troglodytic ones.
And, as I’ve said before, Mr. Smith has no business critiquing
retcons if he accepts nasty stories like Identity Crisis, which is
vulgar nonsense aimed at mentally adolescent grownups. Besides, I’ve
never taken his pans of Emerald Twilight and ZH seriously.
Thanks for the info (about the Tintin parodies)! I
guess I was just wondering if any of this sort of thing
constitutes a copyright violation. It strikes me that the
(National) Lampoon parody might fall closer to such a thing.
Someone once told me that it can be a matter of intent. For
example, Tintin's publishers would probably ignore such a
one-shot parody, but would sue if someone started publishing a
comic featuring Tintin and his pals on a regular basis. I always
wondered about the borderline on this sort of thing, I remember
being astonished as a kid at seeing someone who was obviously
meant to be Clark Kent at a Daily Bugle Christmas party, and I'm
pretty sure Spider-Man made it to at least one Legion of
Super-Heroes wedding. Anyway, thanks again for the info.
I took some tort law classes in college, and what I was taught
there was that you can use anything presented to the public
(within limits) for the purposes of education use, parody, satire,
review or news value. The limits were that you couldn't use
somebody else's intellectual property three times in such a way as
to make money off it.
For example, Elian Gonzalez appeared on every newspaper front in
the country wearing a Batman shirt, but DC didn't get a penny: It
was news value. My newspaper (and every other newspaper) reviewed
Batman in 1989 -- and has referred to it in other articles
numerous times -- and DC doesn't get a penny: It's a review. Clark
Kent can show up in a panel in a Marvel comic and DC doesn't get a
penny: It's satire. Mad magazine can run "Flatman and Ribbin" and
DC doesn't get a penny: It's parody. And a textbook can run panels
from a Batman comic to illustrate pop art and DC doesn't get a
penny: That's education value.
On the other hand, if my newspaper ran the Bat-logo on the top
right of the paper three days in a row, then DC could claim that
we were trying to make money off their property -- and sue the
pants off us.
And who is Mr. Smith to tell us about
education value when he can’t make clear Identity Crisis has none to
offer about sex crimes? Incidentally, I’m wondering what his papers
had to say about the horrible way Gonzalez was treated? I don’t
know, but now, here’s a letter about something I find insulting in
Dear Cap: It's hard not to feel reserved about "mass
origins" or any new origins because you just don't know which
ones the comic company is actually willing to back up. Both
Aztek and Primal Force were series I didn't think deserved
cancellation. And of course Aztek has now gone the way of Will
Payton and been permanently canceled.
It nice to read about something new though. I read the JLA
annual with the intro of the Janissary. Luckily she did not just
mysteriously appear when the JLA showed up, they did imply she
had been around for a little while, Batman even thought she was
one of the Manhunter's personalities. I was under the impression
that was the goal of the annuals, to showcase heroes in other
countries who already exist.
One thing I was really unhappy about in the JLA annual
though was Wonder Woman taking the time to add some extra
costuming in order to enter a Muslim temple. That an Amazon, who
most certainly believes in a woman's equality with a man would
lower herself out of political correctness burns me to no end. I
am sure it was meant to be respectful but it felt demeaning.
One last thing, I did want to say I enjoyed your comments
on Martian Manhunter a few weeks back. It is exciting to see how
closely intertwined with the DC Universe he really is. He is a
very unique character and I think he is doing what a lot of us
would do if we had the time and the means, exploring the world
one life at a time. I look forward to his meeting with Batman
but I also would like him to revisit characters like Gypsy and
Fire. He has become a kind of father figure to the younger
generation of heroes. You would have thought Superman would play
that role but even Batman has more heroes in training than
As I've mentioned on the site before, I've always been a J'onn
J'onzz booster. He's been around since 1955, is more powerful than
Superman, and is REALLY alien. I always thought a good writer
could do a lot with a character who, essentially, has no permanent
shape or gender -- but who can read our thoughts, which are all
gender-based and sex-obsessed. Seeing ourselves through his eyes
would make for a powerful observation on the human condition. It
seems DC has finally decided to give the character a shot, and I'm
delighted that John Ostrander is at the word processor.
I haven't read the JLA annual yet, but the way you describe it
disturbs me. On the one hand, showing respect for another culture
when in that country shows class. On the other hand, the
fundamentalist Muslim view of women is at such odds with the
Amazon philosophy (not to mention Western culture) that it offends
ME. I guess Diana is simply more mature and flexible than I am and
can take it all in stride.
Oh, give us all a break. After his
forgiving attitudes towards Islam, I seriously doubt that clod ever
considers Islamofascism offensive. Besides, what has he ever had to
say about Muslim honor murders? Has he ever come to the defense of
women like Rifqa
Bary? Has he ever even spoken out against DC’s collaboration
with the Kuwaiti propagandist who conceived The 99, or Marvel for
concocting a Muslim Ms. Marvel? Note that he thinks its classy to
respect another culture without distinguishing between good and bad
cultures. The correspondent here did a lot better than Smith did.
He’s right, it’s demeaning to women, and I doubt even William
Marston would approve, no matter how questionable his relationship
with both his wife and a house employee was back in his time.
And with that, we conclude another page on the hypocrisies and other
double-standards of the J. Jonah Jameson wannabe who calls himself
“Captain Comics”. I’ll deal with more on the
next page to follow.
Copyright 2014 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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